Poxviruses have played an amazing role in the development of virology, immunology and vaccinology. In 1796, deliberate inoculation of cowpox virus to humans was proved by Dr. Edward Jenner to protect against the antigenically related smallpox virus (variola). This discovery founded the science of immunology and eventually led to smallpox eradication from the earth in 1980 after a world wide vaccination campaign with vaccinia virus (another poxvirus). Paradoxically, despite the eradication of smallpox, there has been an explosion of interest in vaccinia virus in the eighties. This interest has stemmed in part from the application of molecular genetics to clone and express foreign genes from recombinant vaccinia virus. The use of these recombinant vaccinia viruses as efficacious in vitro expression system and live vaccine has raised concerns about their safety. The work of the scientific community of the last 20 years has contributed to improve drastically the safety of poxvirus derived vectors. Firstly, the safety of vaccinia virus has been enhanced by production of genetically attenuated strains. Secondly, alternative poxvirus vectors, such as avipoxviruses, were proved to be extremely safe and efficacious non-replicating vectors when used in non avian species. In the present chapter, the basic concepts of poxvirus biology required to assess the safety of a poxvirus derived vector are provided. The principal poxvirus vectors available to date are described in regards to their biosafety.
Keywords: Poxviruses, immunology, molecular genetics, non-replicating vectors, avipoxviruses
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport