Promising West Nile virus vaccine protects monkeys

Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have created a promising vaccine against West Nile virus by replacing parts of a distantly related virus with proteins from the West Nile virus. The NIAID research team replaced proteins in a virus known as dengue type 4 with the corresponding West Nile virus proteins, creating a hybrid virus vaccine that protects monkeys from West Nile infection, they report in a paper to be published in the September issue of the journal Virology and currently available online.

"The Department of Health and Human Services has responded vigorously to emerging infectious diseases, including West Nile Virus, and we aim for the earliest and best possible protection for Americans," says HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "We will continue aggressive research and development steps, and we will continue to work with our public health partners toward preventing mosquito-borne disease and ensuring effective prevention and treatment."

"West Nile is one of the emerging infectious diseases for which we are developing novel preventive and therapeutic tactics," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Because our researchers have more than a decade of experience working with this class of virus, they could respond very quickly to the urgent public health need for a promising West Nile virus vaccine."

Human clinical trials of the vaccine are expected to begin before the end of 2003. "We're optimistic that our engineered virus vaccine will provide long-term immunity to West Nile virus, but the human clinical trials will give us the definitive data," says Brian Murphy, M.D., of the NIAID Laboratory of Infectious Diseases.

West Nile virus is spread to people by mosquitoes. It usually produces mild, flu-like symptoms but can cause a deadly encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. The virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since then, it has spread rapidly from the nor

Contact: Linda Joy
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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