A vaccine for the deadly Nipah virus in monkeys has been successfully tested by researchers. This has raised hopes that it could provide similar protection for humans.
With greater than a 75 percent fatality rate and the ability to be transmitted directly from person to person, Nipah has long been a significant concern for infectious-disease experts. The virus, which is carried naturally by fruit bats, was first discovered in Malaysia in 1998. Outbreaks have occurred in nearly every year since, in Singapore, Bangladesh and India.
"This vaccine is based on a protein from Hendra virus, which is a very close relative of Nipah Hendra's found in Australia and is also spread by bats, which give it to horses, which give it to people," said University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston professor Thomas Geisbert, senior author of a paper on the study now online in Science Translational Medicine. "We've got a lot of confidence that the vaccine will work in people, because the animal model we used in this experiment, the African green monkey, faithfully reproduces all aspects of human Nipah and Hendra disease."
Forty-two days later, the researchers infected the animals with what should have been a lethal dose of Nipah. But all of the vaccinated monkeys even those that had received the lowest dose of the vaccine remained completely healthy.
"The vaccine worked great," Geisbert said.
The researchers plan further studies to prepare for a possible application for review by the Food and Drug Administration to license the vaccine for human use. In addition, the vaccine is now in commercial development in Australia to protect horses from Hendra virus.