Syndicate content

Vaccine Protects Monkeys Against Chicamanguya Virus

Chicamanguya virus (CHIKV) is an insect-borne infectious agent that can cause severe disease in humans and against which there is presently no vaccine. This alphavirus has infected millions of people in Africa, Europe, and Asia since it reemerged in Kenya in 2004. The severity of the disease and the epidemic spread of the virus present a serious public health threat in the absence of vaccines or antiviral therapies. Although seldom fatal, infection with the virus causes highly painful arthritis-like symptoms that can linger for months or even years. CHIKV is capable of adapting to spread through a mosquito species common in much of North America. The virus has been the focus of intense scientific interest ever since a 2006 outbreak on the island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean infected approximately 266,000 people, killing 260 of them. The name “chicamanguya” comes from an East African tribal word describing the contorted postures of the virus’s pain-wracked victims. Now, scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and collaborators have reported development of a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine that protects rhesus macaques against infection by CHIKV. "This vaccine did an excellent job of protecting the macaques from chikungunya," said Dr. Stephen Higgs, one of the paper's authors. "That it worked so well in a primate model is good news--these macaques are quite similar to humans in their response to chikungunya, and we badly need to develop an effective human vaccine for this virus." Dr.Gary Nabel, director of the NIAID's Vaccine Research Center and senior author of the article, said that the vaccine's effectiveness against CHIKV has led his group to plan follow-up investigations into whether the same approach would work against other alphaviruses, such as Western and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses (both responsible for periodic outbreaks in the United States), and Africa's o'nyong-nyong virus. The CHIKV vaccine research served as the cover article of the March 2010 issue of Nature Medicine. [Press release] [Nature Medicine abstract]