In DepthInfectious Diseases

Risk of ‘leaky’ vaccines debated

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Science  31 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6247, pp. 461-462
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6247.461

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Vaccines have saved millions of human lives, but according to evolutionary biologist Andrew Read they sometimes may also cause pathogens to turn deadlier. Read first put forward the theory 15 years ago. Now, in a new paper, he presents evidence that that is what happened with the virus causing Marek's disease, an infectious disease in chickens. Read acknowledges that the effect has never been seen with human vaccines, but he argues that future vaccines that prevent disease rather than infection could have the same effect. Other researchers say that no general conclusions should be drawn from the paper. Even if he turns out to be right, the study offers no support whatsoever for those who oppose vaccination, Read stresses. If "leaky" vaccines are proven safe and effective, they should be used, he says, but perhaps with closer monitoring and additional measures to reduce transmission, such as bed nets for malaria.