The surface antigen of hepatitis B virus (HBsAg) spontaneously aggregates into ‘empty’ virus-like particles (VLPs) in the absence of other viral components. The powerful immunogenicity of HBsAg when administered either as VLPs or as naked DNA invites its exploitation as a vector for the delivery of antigenic determinants from other organisms. Here we discuss ways in which HBsAg may be modified to derive vaccines against disease-related pathogens. We review studies demonstrating the induction of disease-protective antibody and T-cell responses induced by immunization with recombinant HBsAg vaccines, and consider how these vaccines might best be delivered. Unmodified HBsAg VLPs are licensed for use in humans as the pan-global vaccine to prevent hepatitis B virus infection, suggesting that route-tomarket for recombinant HBsAg vaccines might be simplified.
Keywords: Hepatitis B surface antigen, vaccine, DNA, virus-like particle, cytotoxic T-cell, antibody
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