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Mosquito-borne Chikungunya Virus Vaccine Shows Promise

Update Date: Aug 15, 2014 12:22 PM EDT

Chikungunya virus, which is transmitted through mosquitos, causes symptoms such as fever and joint pain. Even though the infection is not fatal, it can be extremely painful when the symptoms are severe. There are currently no vaccines or treatments for the virus. However, according to the early results from a phase I trial, a vaccine for the chikungunya virus could be available over the next five to 10 years.

"This vaccine was safe and well-tolerated, and we believe that this vaccine makes a type of antibody that is effective against chikungunya," said trial leader, Dr. Julie Ledgerwood, chief of the clinical trials program at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reported in Philly.

In this trial, the researchers tested the vaccine in 25 healthy people between the ages of 18 and 50. The team tested the effectiveness of the vaccine by measuring the amount of antibodies that were produced against the virus. The participants were given a total of three shots over the time span of 20 weeks.

The team found that just one shot of the vaccine, regardless of the dosage amount, triggered the body to produce antibodies to the virus. After the second shot, all of the participants had high levels of antibodies. The antibodies were still detectable after six months and after 11 months. The researchers added that the vaccine helped produce antibodies against multiple strains of the virus.

Overall, the vaccine was considered to be well-tolerated. 10 participants reported experiencing side effects that included headaches, nausea or feeling unwell right after getting the vaccine. Four participants developed mild to moderate side effects, such as an increase in an enzyme found in the liver. These adults also had a low white blood cell count, which increases their risk of infections.

"We believe it is a highly promising vaccine given how well tolerated it was and how robust the immune responses were," said Dr. Ledgerwood reported by FOX News. "A Phase II trial likely would take several more years, both for the production of vaccine as well as development and completion of the trial. For most vaccines, development takes decades. We don't think it should take that long for this vaccine."

The study, "Safety and tolerability of chikungunya virus-like particle vaccine in healthy adults: a phase 1 dose-escalation trial," was published in The Lancet.

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