Human clinical trials begin on dengue virus vaccine

Human clinical trials have begun on a tetravalent vaccine candidate to protect against the mosquito-borne dengue virus.

The vaccine has been in development for the last decade by scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The trials will be conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, according to NIAID.NIH.gov on August 9.

The vaccine is designed to protect against all four of the known dengue virus types. Every year, between 50 million to 100 million people are infected with the disease, which causes approximately 25,000 annual deaths.

“This is an important milestone for NIAID’s intramural scientists in the development of a model dengue vaccine, which could potentially have a major impact in preventing dengue,” Anthony S. Fauci, NIAID's director, said in a NIAID press release. “With increasing infection rates and disease severity around the world and the discovery of dengue in parts of Florida, finding a way to prevent dengue infection is an important priority.”

Currently, there is no vaccine or drug treatment available for dengue fever. The only way to prevent an infection is to avoid being bitten by the Aedes mosquito that carries the virus.

“Controlling the mosquito vector can work, but it is very expensive and difficult to sustain,” Dr. Anna Durbin, the leading scientist of the study at Johns Hopkins, said to NIAID.NIH.gov. “In the long run, vaccination would be a more efficient and cost-effective approach.”

The researchers expect to study three different candidate combinations of four monovalent vaccines.

“Our overall strategy was to identify the best individual candidate for each serotype, based on safety and ability to induce an immune response, and then combine those into a tetravalent vaccine,” Dr. Stephen Whitehead, a leader of the vaccine’s development, told NIAID.NIH.gov.

Durbin believes that, if all goes well, the final phase of human testing could begin in three to four years.