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Towards a vaccine to stop Chikungunya

A European consortium, of which the CEA-IMETI is a member, has developed a vaccine against the Chikungunya virus and tested it in a rodent model. Trials in humans could begin in 2015. ​

Published on 12 February 2014

The Chikungunya virus, transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes, causes high fever, headaches, rashes and especially muscle and joint pain in 95% of infected individuals. These symptoms disappear within 2-6 weeks in most patients, although 5% to 30% of individuals exhibit clinical signs that may persist for several months to years after the acute phase of the disease.

Researchers from the CEA-IMETI and their Swedish, Estonian, English and Spanish collaborators within the ICRES [1] European consortium have begun the construction of several vaccines to combat epidemics that regularly emerge around the planet (see box). The researchers prepared several candidates, including two attenuated vaccines based on genetically modified Chikungunya strains, and a vaccine designed from synthetic DNA encoding a portion of the viral proteins. These vaccines were tested one by one or in combination in a rodent model, in collaboration with a Swedish laboratory. “We observed a strong humoral immune response with antibody production, and a strong cellular immune response”, states Pierre Roques. “Seven weeks after the vaccine injection, a protective effect was measured by inoculating the wild virus in animal models. It turns out that the protection against joint damage is very effective when a booster vaccination is provided 3 weeks after the first injection.” Two of these vaccines, evaluated as the most effective, will soon be tested in non-human primates, whose immune system is close to humans. If the results are conclusive, clinical trials could begin as soon as 2015.

Chikungunya: the geographic expansion of epidemic foci is feared, especially in the United States

Pierre Roques, virologist in the immuno-virology team at the CEA-IMETI

“We recall the Chikungunya epidemic of 2005, which struck the islands of the Indian Ocean, in particular Réunion with its hundreds of thousands of cases, which resulted in a major economic crisis. Formerly confined to Africa and South Asia, new epidemic outbreaks reflect an accelerated dispersion of the virus since 2007. In the French Antilles, the appearance at the end of 2013 of the first cases of Chikungunya and its dispersion in the Caribbean islands up to Guyana suggests an attack on the American continent, with major implications for public health.”

[1] Integration of Chikungunya research

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