A new article published in the Science journal explores how this defies the previous norm.
In 1974, the first lab-modified virus capable of replicating was produced. Since then, the scientific consensus has been that too many modifications to the virus' genome will make it too unstable to release into an uncontrolled environment safely.
Consequently, lab-modified viral vaccines have been made with their ability to spread from the host individual to others removed or significantly diminished. Successful vaccines include the polio vaccine for humans or rabies vaccines for wild animals.
Scientists in Spain are now conducting a contained experiment involving vaccinating pigs against African swine fever with self-spreading viruses. Additionally, a four-year-long research project based in the U.S. has recently concluded, which mathematically identified deployment strategies for such vaccines. The U.S. Department of Defense's research agency, DARPA, is currently funding experimentation related to lab-modified self-spreading animal vaccines.
"If, as is argued, self-spreading vaccines are potentially transformational in a wide array of agricultural, medical and conservation uses, then developers and funders should commit to address needs within their own borders, rather than continue to propose equatorial nations for field testing," said Guy Reeves of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.
"This will maximize the chances of a robust debate among fellow citizens and nations about the wisdom of self-spreading viral approaches in the environment. In this respect the EU funded project to address a serious pig disease within its own territories could be viewed as a step in this direction," Reeves continued.
You can read more from the article here.