A risk-assessment model has demonstrated the ability of a new cell culture-based vaccine manufacturing process to reduce the level of any adventitious agent to a million-fold below infectious levels. The cell culture-derived subunit influenza vaccine (OPTAFLU ®, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics) is produced using Madin–Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells to propagate seasonal viral strains, as an alternative to embryonated chicken-eggs. As only a limited range of mammalian viruses can grow in MDCK cells, similar to embryonated eggs, MDCK cells can act as an effective filter for a wide range of adventitious agents that might be introduced during vaccine production. However, the introduction of an alternative cell substrate (for example, MDCK cells) into a vaccine manufacturing process requires thorough investigations to assess the potential for adventitious agent risk in the final product, in the unlikely event that contamination should occur.
The risk assessment takes into account the entire manufacturing process, from initial influenza virus isolation, through to blending of the trivalent subunit vaccine and worst-case residual titres for the final vaccine formulation have been calculated for >20 viruses or virus families. Maximum residual titres for all viruses tested were in the range of 10 −6 to 10 −16 infectious units per vaccine dose. Thus, the new cell culture-based vaccine manufacturing process can reduce any adventitious agent to a level that is unable to cause infection.