In findings detailed in Nature Medicine, Researchers at the The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, have developed the first vaccine for the chikungunya fever made form an insect-specific variety and it has been observed that it had no adverse effects on people, rendering the vaccine safe and effective for human use.

The newly developed vaccine has shown promising results in terms of eliciting a string immune defense and has completely protected the test subjecst of mice and non-human primates from disease when exposed to the chikungunya virus.

“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,” said UTMB professor Scott Weaver, senior author of this paper.

What is Chikungunya?

  • Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
  • Joint pain is often debilitating and can vary in duration.
  • The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.
  • There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.
  • The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.
  • The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas. In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy. Outbreaks have since been recorded in France and Croatia.

Within four days of a single dose, the Eilat/Chikungunya candidate vaccine induced neutralizing 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.

Other authors include UTMB’s Jesse Erasmus, Albert Auguste, Huanle Luo, Shannan Rossi, Karla Fenton, Grace Leal and Tian Wang; Jason Kaelber and Wah Chiu from Baylor College of Medicine; Dal Kim and Ilya Frolov from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Farooq Nasar from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

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