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U.S. researchers test new candidate vaccine against chikungunya virus

08-16-2011 16:15 BJT

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. researchers have developed a new candidate vaccine to counter the chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that produces an intensely painful and often chronic arthritic disease that has stricken millions of people in India, Southeast Asia and Africa.

A single dose of the experimental vaccine protected lab mice from infection with the virus, according to a paper published on- line Friday in the journal PLoS Pathogens by researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), the University of Wisconsin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Alabama.

"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," said Scott Weaver, director of UTMB's Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and senior author of the paper. " Everything we've seen so far suggests this vaccine candidate could fill that need."

The experimental vaccine is a "recombinant live-attenuated vaccine" created by genetically modifying the chikungunya virus. The resulting vaccine strain differs from wild-type chikungunya virus in two ways: it doesn't cause disease, and it's incapable of infecting mosquitoes; the latter trait is an important safety feature to ensure that the vaccine strain cannot initiate transmission in nonendemic locations where travelers might be immunized before a trip to Africa or Asia. But it still provokes an immune response to protect against future chikungunya infections.

Such a live virus vaccine would also be relatively economical to produce in large quantities -- an important factor given the limited resources available in the areas hit hardest by chikungunya.

UTMB has signed a license agreement with a private company for commercialization of the new vaccine candidate. In addition, the two partners have been chosen to receive a four-year, 3-million- dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to complete the preclinical development work, opening the door to human trials.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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