Toronto, Jan 21 : Researchers have developed a new synthetic virus that can lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox in humans.
Researchers from the University of Alberta produced an infectious horsepox virus, which they synthetically reconstructed using a published genome sequence and DNA fragments manufactured entirely by chemical methods.
Horsepox -- an equine disease caused by horsepox virus -- is not a hazard to humans.
It is closely related to vaccinia virus, which was used as a vaccine to eradicate human smallpox 40 years ago.
The research showed that the synthetic horsepox virus could provide vaccine protection in a mouse model of poxvirus infection.
"This application of synthetic DNA technology has the potential to revolutionise how we manufacture complex biologicals including recombinant viruses," said David Evans, Professor at the University's Li Ka-Shing Institute of Virology.
"These methods advance the capacity to produce next generation vaccines and offer special promise as a tool for constructing the complicated synthetic viruses that will likely be needed to treat cancer," Evans said.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to advance public health measures.