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Experimental smallpox vaccine protects against monkeypox in nonhuman primates

Scientists evaluating MVA, a potential safer replacement for the licensed Dryvax smallpox vaccine, have shown that MVA elicits an immune response comparable to that of Dryvax in a monkeypox model of human disease. In addition, MVA protected nonhuman primates exposed to lethal doses of the monkeypox virus.

The study, published in the March 11th issue of the journal NATURE, is a collaborative effort involving a team of scientists from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Their findings represent an important step in the search for an alternative vaccine to Dryvax, which contains a live virus called Vaccinia that carries a high risk of adverse complications for people with suppressed immune systems.

Smallpox, a devastating disease caused by the Variola virus, was eradicated in 1979 through the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO). Currently, infectious Variola (a species of the genus Orthopoxvirus) is known to exist only in two WHO-sanctioned repositories, one in Russia and the other at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. However, there is concern that undisclosed reference stocks of the virus may exist, and its potential as a biological weapon has led to the production and stockpiling of smallpox vaccine and the immunization of some healthcare workers.

Because Variola no longer occurs naturally, vaccines cannot be tested for their ability to prevent smallpox in humans. Thus, licensing of future vaccine candidates will include studies of immune response and protection in nonhuman primates. According to the authors, monkeypox currently provides the best nonhuman primate model of an Orthopoxvirus infection.

MVA is made from the same Vaccinia virus present in the Dryvax product. The difference is that MVA is extremely at
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Contact: Caree Vander Linden
Caree.Vander-Linden@amedd.army.mil
301-619-2285
US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
10-Mar-2004


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