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Effectiveness of safer smallpox vaccine demonstrated against monkeypox

A mild, experimental smallpox vaccine known as modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) is nearly as effective as the standard smallpox vaccine in protecting monkeys against monkeypox, a study by researchers of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health, has found. Monkeypox is used to test the effectiveness of a smallpox vaccine because of its similarity to the smallpox virus. The study appears in the March 11 issue of Nature.

"These findings are important to the search for a replacement vaccine for people with health conditions that would prevent them from using the current smallpox vaccine," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID. Currently, Dryvax is the only commercially available smallpox vaccine in the United States. "In addition, because an initial MVA injection may help lessen the side effects experienced from Dryvax, MVA may serve as an important pre-vaccine for large-scale vaccination efforts in the event of a bioterror threat involving smallpox."

NIAID's Bernard Moss, M.D., Ph.D., the senior author on the paper, adds, "This study shows that the MVA vaccine holds great promise as an alternative to the current vaccine. Although MVA may not quite equal Dryvax in its effectiveness, it did extraordinarily well, with all of the monkeys who were vaccinated with MVA surviving a potentially lethal monkeypox infection and, aside from a few minor lesions, showing no clinical signs of disease."

In a separate study published in the March 11 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Moss and colleagues found that, in addition to protecting healthy mice against a lethal form of the vaccinia virus, MVA protects mice with certain immune deficiencies as well. The researchers found that mice survived a deadly dose of vaccinia virus if they'd been immunized with MVA--even those mice that were lacking antibody-producing immune cells or s
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Contact: Jennifer Wenger
jwenger@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
10-Mar-2004


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