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.

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