Virus-like Particles

Virus-like Particles


Why in the News?  

Scientists recently at the Institute of Advanced Virology (IAV) in Thiruvananthapuram have innovated a new method to produce non-infectious particles resembling the Nipah virus, known as VLPs, in a lab setting. This discovery enables the creation of more effective and safer antibodies for neutralising NiV, even in environments with less stringent biosafety requirements. 

What is Virus-like Particles?

  • Virus-like particles (VLPs) are small structures of virus proteins that don’t contain virus DNA, making them safe. Because they have a space inside them for carrying these materials, they transport medicines, vaccines, and substances for imaging. 
  • The efficient vaccine development for HPV, hepatitis B, and malaria involves using VLPs (Virus-Like Particles) to trigger immune responses without causing symptoms of these viruses.
  • The VLPs are extremely tiny, ranging from about 20 to 200 nm in radius. Their small size allows them to smoothly access the lymph nodes, a crucial site for immune system activation during infections. 
  • A Virus-Like Particle (VLP) can include multiple structural proteins, possibly arranged in layers, and may have an outer lipid envelope. This outermost layer protects the genetic material within the particle. 
  • VLP vaccines from bacterial, yeast, insect, or mammalian cells trigger a strong immune response by presenting numerous epitopes and proteins to the immune system. 
  • VLPs offer several advantages, including improved immunogenicity, reduced risk of adverse reactions, and the potential for more targeted and effective vaccines.  

About the Nipah Virus: 

  • The Nipah virus (NiV) is a virus that can transfer from animals to humans (zoonotic), capable of transmission via tainted food or through direct interpersonal contact.
  • It causes severe illness in humans, including encephalitis (brain infection) and death, with a high mortality rate of 40-75%. 
  • The virus initially emerged in 1999, causing an outbreak across Malaysia and Singapore. This incident resulted in more than 100 fatalities and led to the slaughtering of over a million pigs. Since then, most outbreaks have been concentrated in Bangladesh and India, with Bangladesh experiencing almost yearly occurrences. 
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropus genus carry the Nipah virus asymptomatically, which humans can contract through direct contact with these bats, consuming contaminated raw date palm sap, or interacting with infected pigs. 
  • Up to 75% of cases in the recent outbreaks in India and Bangladesh were due to human-to-human transmission. This fact underscores the Nipah virus as a major concern for public health. 
  • Currently, no authorised vaccines or particular therapies for the Nipah virus infection; supportive care is the only option available.
  • To prevent outbreaks of the Nipah virus, it’s crucial to avoid contact with ill animals, particularly bats and pigs, in impacted areas and enforce correct infection prevention protocols. 


VLPs are a flexible medical science tool capable of mimicking viruses while remaining non-infectious. This characteristic fosters robust immune reactions, making them indispensable in creating vaccines and other biomedical applications. Stability issues, manufacturing complexities, elevated production expenses, and temperature sensitivity have all constrained the broader adoption of VLPs. Tackling these obstacles and enhancing the production process and fabrication of VLPs is essential for their increased application in vaccine development and beyond. 


Download Yojna daily current affairs eng med 4th June 2024


Mains Practice Question: 

Q. Discuss the Regulatory considerations when developing and approving VLP-based medical products. What is the cost-effectiveness of developing VLP-based vaccines or treatments compared to other methods?

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