It is the time of the viruses. These little strangers with terrible fame lately. Those who are changing globalized society like never before. Are they all harmful? Some of them are very useful. And especially one that is a possible ally against the coronavirus. It's baculovirus.
Baculoviruses are DNA viruses. They only infect insects, mainly moths and butterflies. So far, more than 1,000 different species have been described. Some baculoviruses are currently used as bioinsecticides to control agricultural pests. They favor the reduction in the use of chemical insecticides.
Mid-1980s when the first recombinant baculoviruses were created. They made it possible to develop recombinant protein expression systems using baculoviruses.
The most common systems are based on the moth baculovirus Caliphoric autograph. It is known as AcMNPV. Once the gene or genes of interest have been introduced into the virus genome, they can be used to infect insect cells. For what? Production of large quantities of the proteins of interest.
Animals become small bio factories that produce large amounts of protein at low cost. These can be used to make vaccines. For example, the Flublok vaccine is being marketed, which protects against different strains of the common influenza virus.
They also enable the simultaneous production of several proteins. For this reason, they have been used in the production of SARS-CoV-2 proteins for the diagnosis of infected persons. And they are used to research potential vaccines.
Help us fight another virus
The well-known rapid test is based on the detection of antibodies in the blood that have been developed by the immune system against the SARS-CoV-2 proteins. For this purpose, the matrix in which the detection is carried out contains proteins from the virus surface. Its binding to the patient's antibodies enables a color to develop.
For the preparation of these tests it is necessary to produce large amounts of certain viral proteins. They have to maintain their antigenic properties. In several of these detection systems, proteins are produced by recombinant baculoviruses. They express virus coat proteins in insect cells.
Recombinant baculoviruses enable the simultaneous production of functional proteins that can activate the immune system. They are cleaned to remove any contaminants and are formulated for the production of vaccines. If several viral proteins are expressed simultaneously and in the correct proportions, so-called "virus-like particles" (VLP) can also be generated. These particles mimic the virus envelope, but have no infectious capacity and are currently also used to manufacture vaccines.
The fact that baculovirus is a possible ally against the coronavirus is just one example. Viruses can be very useful if they are used well. The development of virology will bring more and more benefits for people and the environment.