Medical breakthrough: World’s first chikungunya vaccine developed
Though there is no known cure for chikungunya at the moment, researchers have recently revealed the development of a vaccine.
The study was published in Nature Medicine last Monday, Dec. 19. Scientists from the University of Texas created the vaccine's model using unconventional methods.They synthesized insect virus to develop the vaccine, contrary to the standard procedure of utilizing inactivated or live-attenuated virus samples.
In their study, the researchers aimed to address the reduced safety of live-attenuated vaccines in comparison to inactivated vaccines and the inactivated vaccine's dependency on multiple boosters
"To overcome these tradeoffs, we developed the insect-specific alphavirus, Eilat virus (EILV), as a vaccine platform," the researchers described their study and development of their hybrid vaccine. "To address the chikungunya fever [CHIKF] pandemic, we used an EILV cDNA clone to design a chimeric virus containing the chikungunya virus [CHIKV] structural proteins."
The scientists successfully synthesized a hybrid specimen that was structurally identical to the original strain from the carrier mosquito's latent chikungunya proteins.
After testing the vaccine on nonhuman subjects, specifically mice, the researchers noted a significant increase of virus antibodies four days after a single dosage was administered. The effects lasted for 290 days.
"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," senior author Professor Scott Weaver stated in the study.
Commonly found in tropical countries, chikungunya has recently started outbreaks in the U.S. and Europe. The World Health Organization categorized the disease as one of the 20 "neglected tropical diseases" that has been analyzed to collectively infect over 1.4 billion people.
Chikungunya, in particular, infects at least 3 million every year. Despite the alarming numbers, these conditions are not given as much attention as mainstream diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.
If the positive developments continue, the solution to chikungunya may be developed soon.