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Worldwide, millions of people are infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Children and infants are particularly susceptible. While 6–17% of infected adults become chronic carriers of the virus, the rate for infected infants is 70–90%. Like HIV, transmission of HBV occurs through body fluids; however, HBV is considered 100 times more infectious.
The current HBV vaccine is a recombinant viral protein made in yeast. A less expensive vaccine for developing countries is needed. A plant producing an antigenic protein from the virus could serve as an edible vaccine that would deliver the antigen to immune system cells in intestinal mucosal tissues, including B cells that produce protective antibodies.
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