January 2011


The development and use of vaccines against some serious human viruses was certainly one of the great success stories of 20'th century biological science. In the early decades of the 20'th century, viral diseases such as yellow fever, polio, and rabies were greatly feared, because there was no effective way of preventing the very serious diseases caused by these easily transmissible viruses. The development of new vaccines remains one of the main goals of much virology research.

1. What are the available vaccines against human viral diseases, and what are some updates on the use and effectiveness of these vaccines?

The main human viral vaccines, roughly in order of when they were developed, are:


Smallpox                   Live Vaccinia virus (Led to the global elimination of smallpox by late 1970's.)

Yellow fever              Live attenuated strain (of yellow fever virus)

Measles                     Live attenuated strain (of measles virus)

Mumps                     Live attenuated strain (of mumps virus)

Rubella                     Live attenuated strain (of rubella virus)

Polio                         Live attenuated strain (Sabin) or Inactivated virions (Salk) (2007 JID article )

Influenza                   Inactivated virions or live attenutated strain ( NEJM articles, December 2006)

Rabies                       Inactivated virions (for post-exposure use)

Hepatitis B                Viral envelope glycoprotein (from cloned HBV DNA)

Varicella-zoster          Live attenuated strain (1990's) (March 2007 update, NEJM article)

Hepatitis A                Inactivated virions (1990's)

Rotavirus                  Live attenuated strain (2006 article) & human-bovine reassortment strain (2006 article)

HPV                         Virus-like particles ( NEJM perspective 2006)

2. What is a 2010 update on influenza vaccines?

Here is the summary of a perspective by Doms from Science, 27 August 2010: "Prime, Boost, and Broaden".

3. What is a 2010 update on development of an effective vaccine against HIV?

Here is the summary of a perspective by Burton and Weiss from Science, 13 August 2010: "A Boost for HIV Vaccine Design".