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Scand J Immunol Suppl. 1992;11:137-43.

Future perspectives for vaccine development.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ohio State University, Columbus 43210-1228.


The successful development of an anti-fertility vaccine necessitates overcoming obstacles in eliciting an immune response to self species body constituents. The feasibility of accomplishing this task has been demonstrated for certain antigens described in this workshop; however, additional vaccine candidate antigens may yet be revealed from the application of recent advances in molecular biology. Improvements in vaccine design are likely to occur from discovery of more appropriate epitopes on targeting antigens, new carrier molecules for terminating immunological tolerance, expression of vaccine antigens in suitable live vectors, the co-immunization with more than one antigen, the use of safer and/or more effective adjuvants and vehicles, more efficient immunization by targeting antigens to specific lymphoid cells, and the development of superior vaccine delivery systems. Research directed to restricting the immune response to the genital tract and to intentionally reverse the effects of immunization will likely be pursued in the future. All of these areas need to be addressed if vaccines are to be developed that are not only safe and effective but also highly acceptable as birth control methods.


Reproductive hormone-based vaccines have targeted single molecules, sperm, and ovum antigens. Also, a peptide representing hormone-specific epitopes has been employed for vaccine development for the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) vaccine. Defining individual epitopes is needed because few defined molecules can be acquired from natural sources to manufacture vaccine for millions of people, and recombinant DNA production of glycosylated molecules is expensive. Most research will be directed toward defining antigen-specific epitopes in follicle stimulating hormones (FSH), gonadotropin releasing hormones (GnRH), hcG, the sperm antigens, and ovum antigens. The first vaccines using recombinant fusion proteins have now emerged. They utilize T-cell and B-cell epitopes, as responses to both are needed to prevent infection. The immune response required for an antifertility vaccine requires overcoming a state of total T-cell tolerance and partial B-cell tolerance to render self antigens immunogenic to temporarily neutralize reproductive or eliminating hypersensitivity reactions elicited by T-cell activation. Currently approved vaccines are delivered by the injection of antigens dissolved in physiological saline or absorbed to aluminum hydroxide precipitates. Biodegradable microsphere systems for controlled antigen release hold out the promise of a sustained antibody response to a soluble antigen, as they employ synthetic polymers of polylactic acids to entrap immunogens and to release them gradually over time. The acceptability of antifertility vaccines hinges on clearly defining the duration of infertility. Any birth control method inducing long term infertility provides opportunities for ethical abuse with inadequate informed consent or by coercive governments, thus stringent adherence to high ethical standards accompany their use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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