New vaccine to fight chikungunya virus developed

Researchers have developed a new vaccine candidate to treat chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that produces an intensely painful and chronic arthritic disease.

The scientists, who recently published the results of their study in the journal PLoS Pathogens, demonstrated that a single dose of their vaccine was able to protect lab mice from chikungunya infection, according to

"Currently, we have no approved treatment or vaccine for chikungunya, and there's a real need for an effective vaccine to protect against this debilitating and economically devastating infection," Scott Weaver, the study’s senior author from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said, reports. "Everything we've seen so far suggests this vaccine candidate could fill that need."

The recombinant live attenuated vaccine was created by genetically modifying the chikungunya virus so that it is incapable of causing the disease. The virus can then be safely used to provoke an immune response. The virus was also altered so that it could not infect mosquitoes. This ensures that the vaccine strain cannot initiate transmission in nonendemic locations.

"We need to slow this virus down in India and Southeast Asia, not just to protect the people there but to reduce the very real risk that it might become endemic here after an infected traveler arrives," Weaver said. "The best way to do that is with a vaccine, and if you're going to make a vaccine you have to look at where it's going to be used and what they can afford."

UTMB has already signed a license agreement with Inviragen, Inc., to commercialize the vaccine. The partners recently received a four year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to finish the preclinical work necessary to submit an investigational new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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