First Human Trial of Nipah Vaccine Announced
Mature Nipah Virus particles (blue) close to the periphery of an infected VERO cell (purple)

The first clinical trial of a vaccine for Nipah, a deadly communicable disease mostly found in South-East Asia, is about to start, the Oxford Vaccine Group announced.

Despite 25 years of outbreaks and its WHO status of a priority disease, there is no treatment or vaccine for Nipah up to this date. 

“This vaccine trial is an important milestone in identifying a solution that could prevent local outbreaks occurring, while also helping the world prepare for a future global pandemic” – highlights Dr. In-Kyu Yoon, acting executive director of Vaccine Research & Development at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Nipah is a paramyxovirus, the same family as measles, and is carried by fruit bats. Infections occur after people or animals eat fruit contaminated with bat urine or saliva, or have contact with other infected animals or people. 

Even though Nipah outbreaks are typically small-scale, its devastating mortality rate – sometimes reaching 75% – and the fact that it is transmitted both from animals and among people are reasons enough to consider it a potential threat.

The disease attacks the central nervous system or the respiratory system. In most extreme cases, it can lead to a coma in under two days.

The most recent outbreak of September 2023, in India’s district Kerala, was contained quickly thanks to a systematic and decided response. From its first detection in 1998, there were over 600 cases, with many proving fatal.

The new vaccine trial will first be tested on 50 healthy individuals aged 18-55 with a vaccine is developed by the Oxford Vaccine Group and funded by CEPI. It is using the same platform as a previous creation of the team, the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

“Nipah has epidemic potential, with its fruit bat hosts found in areas home to over two billion people,” said Yoon. “This trial is a step forward in efforts to build a suite of tools to protect against this killer virus.”

Image Credits: NIAD.

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