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Preventative and therapeutic vaccines are increasingly used during pregnancy and present special considerations for developmental toxicity testing. The various components of the vaccine formulation (i.e., protein or polysaccharide antigen, adjuvants, and excipients) need to be assessed for direct effects on the developing conceptus. In addition, possible adverse influences of the induced antibodies on fetal and/or postnatal development need to be evaluated. A guidance document on the preclinical testing of preventative and therapeutic vaccines for developmental toxicity was issued by the FDA in 2006. Preclinical studies are designed to assess possible influences of vaccines on pre- and postnatal development. The choice of model animal for these experiments is influenced by species differences in the timing and extent of the transfer of the induced maternal antibodies to the fetus. The cross-placental transport of maternal immunoglobulins generally only occurs in late gestation and tends to be greater in humans and monkeys than in non-primate species. For many vaccines, the rabbit shows a greater rate of prenatal transfer of the induced antibodies than rodents. For biotechnology-derived vaccines that are not immunogenic in lower species, nonhuman primates may be the only appropriate models. It may be advisable to test new adjuvants using the ICH study designs for conventional pharmaceuticals in addition to the developmental toxicity study with the final vaccine formulation.


Paul C Barrow, Linda Allais. Developmental toxicity testing of vaccines. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2013;947:81-9

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PMID: 23138897

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