French team develop trial Nipah vaccine

11th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 10 (AFP) - French scientists, working with Malaysian colleagues, announced Tuesday they had developed a trial vaccine for Nipah virus, a new and deadly disease, which had worked successfully in lab animals.

PARIS, Feb 10 (AFP) - French scientists, working with Malaysian colleagues, announced Tuesday they had developed a trial vaccine for Nipah virus, a new and deadly disease, which had worked successfully in lab animals.

Nipah, which induces flu-like symptoms that often lead to encephalitis and a coma, jumped the species barrier from fruit bats to pigs and then to humans in Malaysia in October 1998, and there have since been outbreaks in three other Asian countries.

The prototype vaccine induces an immune response by expressing two glycoproteins located on the surface of the Nipah virus that the agent uses to enter human cells.

Hamsters injected with the experimental vaccine developed neutralising antibodies that prevented infection, a press statement issued by the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) said.

In addition, blood serum taken from immunised hamsters that was then injected into other hamsters also gave them immunity, which is a good sign of a strong response.

"The results open the way to the potential development of new vaccines to protect human populations living in risk areas where the virus holes up," Inserm said.

The virus draws its name from Nipah, a village near Kuala Lumpur, where it was first detected.

In 1999, 256 people in Malaysia fell sick with the disease, and four out of every 10 patients died.

More than a million pigs, the direct source for transmission to humans, were slaughtered to help curb its spread.

The virus has since been detected in Bangladesh and northern India, in 2001 and 2003, and in Cambodia in 2002.

The vaccine work was carried out by teams from Inserm and France's Pasteur Institute, as well as from the University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

The study appears in the January issue of a specialist publication, the Journal of Virology.

© AFP

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