For the first time, a new vaccine provided complete protection against three types of equine encephalitic viruses in nonhuman primates, according to a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The research was a joint collaborative effort involving Tulane University, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army.
These encephalitic alphaviruses are possible bioterrorism agents because of their potential to be aerosolized, punctuating the need for a vaccine to protect populations in the event of an attack.
Tulane University researchers Chad J. Roy and Vicki Traina-Dorge, both Tulane National Primate Research Center (TNPRC) faculty, directed the portion of the studies involving the use of specialized biocontainment laboratories located at the TNPRC.
“These findings are an important milestone in the development of a vaccine that could be employed in the event that these viruses are ever used in a deliberate release,” said Roy, director of Infectious Disease Aerobiology and Biodefense Research Programs at Tulane.
There is no current vaccine or treatment against Western, Eastern and Venezuelan equine encephalitis, which are spread by mosquitoes. In summer months when temperatures rise and mosquitos increase, horse populations are particularly susceptible to fatal infection from these viruses. Transmission from horses to humans occurs by mosquitoes as well, and can cause serious illness and death in vulnerable populations, particularly the elderly and children.
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