Friday, October 28, 2011

Porcine circoviruses, vaccines, and trypsin

It has now been more than a year since the announcements by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck of the presence of porcine circovirus (PCV) genomic material in their rotavirus vaccines.
The presence of the PCV viral sequences was, in both cases, provisionally attributed to the use of porcine trypsin during the culture of the cell substrates used in the manufacture of the vaccines. It has been reported that the genomic sequences were associated with low levels of infectious PCV in the GSK vaccine.     
As mentioned in a previous posting, an expected outcome of these disclosures was heightened regulatory expectations, going forward, for PCV screening of porcine raw materials and of Master and Working cell banks which were exposed to porcine ingredients (e.g., trypsin) at some point in their development. In January of 2011, the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.) chapter 5.2.3 Cell substrates for production of vaccines for human use was revised to include the following instruction: Trypsin used for the preparation of cell cultures is examined by suitable methods and shown to be sterile and free from mycoplasmas and viruses, notably pestiviruses, <circoviruses> and parvoviruses.” The addition of circoviruses to the list of viruses of concern (previously, mainly bovine viral diarrhea virus and porcine parvovirus) in Ph. Eur. 7.2 was not unexpected, based on the rotavirus vaccine experience.
A more broad expectation going forward may also be that vaccine and biologics production cell banks be proactively screened for unexpected, perhaps previously undetectable, viruses using detection techniques such as the deep sequencing used initially to detect the PCV in the GSK rotavirus vaccine. A related technique referred to as massively parallel sequencing (Massively Parallel Sequencing (MP-Seq), a New Tool For Adventitious Agent Detection and Virus Discovery) has been adopted for detection of viral contaminants in cells and viral seed stocks and for evaluating vaccine cell substrates by the contract testing organization BioReliance.
The more important sequella of the porcine circovirus disclosures may therefore be the proactive use of these new and powerful virus detection techniques for ensuring the viral safety of production cell banks, going forward.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ridding serum of viruses with gamma irradiation: part 2

by Dr. Ray Nims

In a previous posting, we described the susceptibility of viruses from various families to inactivation in frozen serum treated with gamma irradiation (data from the literature). Gamma irradiation is a commonly employed risk mitigation strategy for biopharmaceutical manufacture, and indeed the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products in its Note for guidance on the use of bovine serum states that some form of inactivation (such as gamma irradiation) is expected. The use of non-treated serum in the production of biologics for human use must be justified, due to the potential for introducing a viral contaminant through use of this animal-derived material.

But how effective is this particular risk mitigation strategy? To answer this, we expressed the susceptibility to inactivation by gamma radiation for a series of 16 viruses in terms of log10 reduction in titer per kiloGray (kGy) of gamma radiation. With this value in hand, one may easily calculate the log10 reduction in titer of a given virus which might be expected following irradiation of frozen serum at any given kGy dose (serum is typically irradiated at a dose of 25-40 kGy).

The next step is to try to understand the results obtain with this relatively limited series of viruses, so that we may extrapolate the results to other viruses. If we take a look at the viral characteristics that might confer susceptibility to inactivation by gamma irradiation, will we find what we are looking for?

Viral characteristics that have been postulated to contribute to susceptibility or resistance to inactivation by gamma irradiation include: 1) radiation target size (genome size, particle size, genome shape, segmentation of the genome); 2) strandedness (in double stranded genomes the genomic information is recorded in duplicate, so loss of information on one strand may not be as damaging as it would be in the case of a single stranded genome); 3) presence or absence of a lipid envelope (non-enveloped viruses are resistant to a variety of chemical and physical inactivation approaches); and 4) genome type (RNA vs. DNA). The characteristics for our series of 16 viruses are displayed in the following table (click on table to enlarge).

For evaluating the contribution of radiation target size, we are able to make use of quantitative values available for each virus for genome size (in nucleotides) and particle size (in nm). Plotting genome size vs. log10 reduction in titer per kGy yields the results shown below. The coefficient of determination obtained is just 0.32, suggesting that factors other than (or in addition to!) genome size in nucleotides must be important..

A somewhat better concordance is obtained between particle size and log10 reduction in titer per kGy as shown below. The fit line in this case is non-linear, with a coefficient of determination of 0.60.

The contributions of genome type (RNA vs. DNA), genome strandedness, and lipid envelope (present or absent) to susceptibility to inactivation by gamma irradiation appear to be minimal, within this limited series of viruses. As a result, we are left with the conclusion that the most clear, albeit incomplete, determinant of susceptibility to inactivation by gamma irradiation appears to be particle size. This probably explains the resistance to inactivation displayed by the extremely small viruses such as circoviruses, parvoviruses, and caliciviruses. It is less clear why the polyomaviruses (e.g., SV-40 at 40-50 nm) are so resistant to gamma irradiation while certain of the picornaviruses (25-30 nm) are less resistant to inactivation. More work in this area is needed to better understand all of the factors that contribute to susceptibility to gamma radiation inactivation in viruses and bacteriophage.

< This information was excerpted in part from Nims, et al. Biologicals (2011) >