US Scientists have developed the first vaccine for chikungunya fever made from an insect-specific virus that doesn’t have any effect on human, making it safe and effective.
The newly developed vaccine quickly produces a strong immune defence and completely protects mice and non-human primates from disease when exposed to the chikungunya virus, said researchers.
“This vaccine offers efficient, safe and affordable protection against chikungunya and builds the foundation for using viruses that only infect insects to develop vaccines against other insect-borne diseases,” Scott Weaver, professor at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) in the US, said.
What’s Chikungunya? Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus that causes a disease characterised by fever and severe joint pain, often in hands and feet, and may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
Some patients will feel better within a week but many develop longer-term joint pain that can lasts up to years. Death is rare but can occur, said researchers.
Traditionally, vaccine development involves trade-offs between how quickly and safely the vaccine works. They used the Eilat virus as a vaccine platform as it appeared that it only infects insects and has no effects on humans. The researchers also used the virus’ clone to design a hybrid virus-based vaccine containing chikungunya structural proteins.
The Eilat/chikungunya vaccine was found to be structurally identical to natural chikungunya virus. The difference is that although the hybrid virus replicates very well in mosquito cells, it cannot replicate in mammals.
The findings indicate, within four days of a single dose, the Eilat/chikungunya candidate vaccine induced neutralized antibodies that lasted for more than 290 days. The antibodies provided complete protection against chikungunya in two different mouse models.
In nonhuman primates, Eilat/chikungunya elicited rapid and robust immunity there was neither evidence of the virus in the blood nor signs of illness such as fever after chikungunya virus infection.