Plant-produced candidate countermeasures against emerging and reemerging infections and bioterror agents
Despite progress in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, they continue to present a major threat to public health. The frequency of emerging and reemerging infections and the risk of bioterrorism warrant significant efforts towards the development of prophylactic and therapeutic countermeasures. Vaccines are the mainstay of infectious disease prophylaxis. Traditional vaccines, however, are failing to satisfy the global demand because of limited scalability of production systems, long production timelines and product safety concerns. Subunit vaccines are a highly promising alternative to traditional vaccines. Subunit vaccines, as well as monoclonal antibodies and other therapeutic proteins, can be produced in heterologous expression systems based on bacteria, yeast, insect cells or mammalian cells, in shorter times and at higher quantities, and are efficacious and safe. However, current recombinant systems have certain limitations associated with producti on capacity and cost. Plants are emerging as a promising platform for recombinant protein production due to time and cost efficiency, scalability, lack of harboured mammalian pathogens and possession of the machinery for eukaryotic post-translational protein modification. So far, a variety of subunit vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and therapeutic proteins (antivirals) have been produced in plants as candidate countermeasures against emerging, reemerging and bioterrorism-related infections. Many of these have been extensively evaluated in animal models and some have shown safety and immunogenicity in clinical trials. Here, we overview ongoing efforts to producing such plant-based countermeasures.