Researchers have successfully tested in monkeys a vaccine against Nipah virus, a human pathogen that emerged in 1998 during a large outbreak of infection and disease among pigs and pig farmers in Southeast Asia. This latest advance builds upon earlier work by the scientists, who found that the same vaccine can protect cats from Nipah virus and ferrets and horses from the closely related Hendra virus.
Both viruses have a high fatality rate in humans—more than 75 percent for Nipah and 60 percent for Hendra. Infections by these viruses target the lungs and brain, and disease outbreaks have occurred regularly in the past decade. Nipah outbreaks have occurred in Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and India. Hendra outbreaks have remained confined to Australia since its emergence there in horses and humans in 1994. Certain fruit bats, also known as flying foxes, spread the viruses; so far, only Nipah is known to spread from person-to-person.
The research group developed a vaccine based on a Hendra virus surface protein, the G glycoprotein, a known target for triggering a protective host immune response. In this study, they used the recently developed African green monkey model of Nipah disease to test three different doses of the vaccine in combination with an adjuvant. All nine vaccinated animals survived a lethal Nipah virus challenge given 42 days after the initial vaccination.
Christopher Broder, Ph.D., of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and Katharine Bossart, Ph.D., a former USU graduate student now at Boston University, developed the vaccine. Heinz Feldmann, M.D., Ph.D., of Rocky Mountain Laboratories, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and Thomas Geisbert, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, oversaw the research in African green monkeys.
The group is planning additional studies to gather more data to include in an application for possible review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to license the vaccine for use in humans. The vaccine is in commercial development in Australia for use in horses.
K Bossart et al. A Hendra virus G glycoprotein subunit vaccine protects African green monkeys from Nipah virus challenge. Science Translational Medicine. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004241 (2012).
Heinz Feldmann, M.D., Ph.D., chief of NIAID's Laboratory of Virology and chief scientist of the biosafety level-4 laboratories at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, has expertise in Nipah and Hendra viruses.
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