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US researchers develop world’s first chikungunya vaccine

Researchers in the US have developed the world’s first vaccine for chikungunya fever, which has been derived from an insect-specific virus that does not have side effects on people.

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. 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 and the treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

“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 Scott Weaver from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Traditionally, vaccine development requires the right combination of being prompt and cautious.

The researchers used the Eilat virus as a vaccine base because it only infects insects and has no impact on people. The researchers used an Eilat virus clone to design a hybrid virus-based vaccine including structural proteins of chikungunya.The Eilat/Chikungunya vaccine was found to be structurally identical to natural chikungunya virus.

The exclusion is that although the hybrid virus replicates well in mosquito cells, it cannot be replicated in mammals. According to the findings, in four days of a single dose, the Eilat/Chikungunya candidate vaccine produces neutralising antibodies that last for more than 290 days. These antibodies supply complete protection against chikungunya in two different mouse models.

Amongst non-human primates, Eilat/Chikungunya evoked fast and robust immunity levels. Along with this, there was neither any trace of the virus in the blood nor any sign of illness like fever post chikungunya infection.

The research findings were recently published in the Nature Medicine journal.

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