US: Scientists at the University of Texas have developed a vaccine that could protect against the deadly Nipah virus in just three days.
Nipah is a Zoonotic virus (transmitted from animals to humans), which can be spread through contaminated food or directly between humans on exposure to secretions. The virus had three outbreaks in India in the last four years and has so far claimed nearly 20 lives, including a 12-year-old boy from Kerala.
Much like Covid infection, the Nipah virus spreads through respiratory droplets. But it is far more lethal, killing up to three-quarters of people it infects. It has also been listed as one of the viruses most likely to cause the next pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The US scientists immunised African green monkeys with the experimental jab about three to seven days prior to exposure to a strain of the Nipah virus.
The results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), showed all vaccinated monkeys were protected from lethal disease, while 67 per cent of animals vaccinated three days before virus exposure got partial protection but survived.
The experimental jab is found to be “a safe, immunogenic, and effective at protecting the monkeys from a high dose of Nipah virus given shortly after vaccination”, Thomas W. Geisbert, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, at the varsity’s Medical Branch, wrote in the paper.
“These studies are an encouraging first step in showing the safety and potential efficacy of this vaccine in an outbreak scenario. Future studies are needed to identify the minimum dose needed for efficacy, as well as to define the durability of vaccine-induced immune responses,” he added.
There is currently no vaccine approved for humans. While several preventive vaccines have shown promise in protecting animals against lethal Nipah virus disease, most studies have assessed protection one month after vaccination.