The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Queensland and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute through their research of the Binjari virus.
The virus is inert to humans but can be altered to produce viruses, such as Zika or dengue, that are dangerous to humans but without the risk of infection.
Jody Hobson-Peters, who worked on the research, said the project was originally intended to learn how mosquito-borne viral diseases evolve, with the hope of discovering a virus that could be useful for biological control agents.
Hobson-Peters explained, “The Binjari virus stood out, and while it grows to very high levels in mosquito cells in the lab, it’s completely harmless and cannot infect humans or other vertebrate species.
“And it is incredibly tolerant for genetic manipulation, allowing us to swap important genes from pathogenic viruses like Zika, West Nile and dengue into the Binjari genome.”
Once the genome is altered, these viruses appear physically identical to the target viruses, but are unable to reproduce in human or animal cells.
As a result, the manufacture of such vaccines is safe and does not require biosecurity infrastructure to grow the target viruses – reducing cost of development.
Andreas Suhrbier, who also worked on the research, stated, “It’s a technology that will truly revolutionize the manufacture of vaccines – supercharging high-volume vaccine development.”
The below video features the lead researcher, Roy Hall, outlining how the virus was discovered and its potential medical uses: