People may soon be getting vaccinated for diseases like hepatitis B and cholera by simply taking a bite of banana. Researchers have successfully engineered bananas, potatoes, lettuce, carrots and tobacco to produce vaccines, but they say bananas are the ideal production and delivery vehicle.
When an altered form of a virus is injected into a banana sapling, the virus’ genetic material quickly becomes a permanent part of the plant’s cells. As the plant grows, its cells produce the virus proteins — but not the infectious part of the virus. When people eat a bite of a genetically engineered banana, which is full of virus proteins, their immune systems build up antibodies to fight the disease — just like a traditional vaccine.