Difference between DNA Vaccine and Recombinant Vaccine


A vaccine is a biological entity that triggers the body’s immune system to provide immunity against infectious diseases. The entity stimulates the immune system that recognises it as a foreign material and destroys it. This forms a memory in our cells, and in future whenever that foreign body (antigen) invades our body, the immune system can fight against it.

These conventional vaccines use live or attenuated pathogen particles that provide immunity. Recent advancements have led to the development of nucleic acid vaccines, subunit vaccines and recombinant vaccines that use DNA, mRNA or proteins directly for vaccines. Let us shed some light on DNA and recombinant vaccines and look at the differences between them.

Refer: Vaccines

DNA Vaccine

DNA vaccines are nucleic acid vaccines that are genetically engineered into a plasmid. The DNA sequence codes for the antigen against which immunity is sought.

Mechanism: The plasmid is transfected into the host cell and is incorporated into the host genome. As a normal metabolic process, the DNA sequence is translated into a protein. Since the protein is a bacterial or viral sequence, it is recognised as a foreign body by the host’s machinery, and as a result immune response is activated.

The DNA vaccines are advantageous because they are easy to develop and are cost-effective, there is no risk of infection, and gives a longer immune response to the host cells.

Recombinant Vaccine

Recombinant vaccines are protein or DNA recombinants that are produced by expression in bacterial or yeast systems. These protein or DNA recombinants are introduced into the host cells where they are identified as a foreign material, and as a result, an immune response is triggered.

The advantage of recombinant vaccines is that they can be used for people with weakened immune systems as well. However, one shortcoming is that you need to get booster shots to maintain the effect of the vaccine.

DNA Vaccine vs. Recombinant Vaccine

DNA Vaccine

Recombinant Vaccine


DNA vaccines are prepared by inserting a DNA sequence (that codes for the antigen) into a plasmid and transfected to the host cell.

Recombinant vaccines are protein or DNA recombinants that are inserted into the host cell to trigger immune response.



Both DNA and protein-based.


The DNA sequence gets incorporated into the host genome.

A gene of interest is incorporated into a vector which inturn is included in the host genome.


No DNA vaccine has been approved for human use till date.

Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines have been approved and are readily used.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the first recombinant vaccine?

The first recombinant vaccine is the Hepatitis B vaccine that was developed in 1986.

Are recombinant protein vaccines safe?

Recombinant proteins have the advantage that they do not get integrated into the host genome so there is no risk of genome infiltration.

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