Hepatitis B remains one of the major global health problems more than 40 years after the identification of human hepatitis B virus (HBV) as the causative agent. A critical turning point in combating this virus was the development of a preventative vaccine composed of the HBV surface (envelope) protein (HBsAg) to reduce the risk of new infections. The isolation of HBsAg sub-viral particles (SVPs) from the blood of asymptomatic HBV carriers as antigens for the first-generation vaccines, followed by the development of recombinant HBsAg SVPs produced in yeast as the antigenic components of the second-generation vaccines, represent landmark advancements in biotechnology and medicine. The ability of the HBsAg SVPs to accept and present foreign antigenic sequences provides the basis of a chimeric particulate delivery platform, and resulted in the development of a vaccine against malaria (RTS,S/AS01, MosquirixTM
), and various preclinical vaccine candidates to overcome infectious diseases for which there are no effective vaccines. Biomedical modifications of the HBsAg subunits allowed the identification of strategies to enhance the HBsAg SVP immunogenicity to build potent vaccines for preventative and possibly therapeutic applications. The review provides an overview of the formation and assembly of the HBsAg SVPs and highlights the utilization of the particles in key effective vaccines.
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