OCT 11, 2018 06:47 PM PDT

New Vaccine Protects Against Lassa Fever and Rabies

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

In Africa, Lassa fever is a significant threat to public health. It is a member of the same family of viruses as Ebola. Lassa cases can be mild, but it may also cause hemorrhagic fever. The virus infects between 100,000 and 300,000 people every year, killing 5,000 of those individuals. Now researchers have created a vaccine that protects against this deadly illness, as well as rabies, another problematic virus in Africa. The vaccine has proven effective in animal models. The work has been reported in Nature Communications.

"This two-component vaccine showed good protection from exposure to both virus types in preliminary animal studies," said the senior author of the study, Matthias Schnell, Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University). Schnell is also the Director of the Jefferson Vaccine Center.

The scientists based the vaccine on one that has been used effectively for rabies over decades. It’s an inactive vaccine, so it’s likely to be safe for pregnant women, whose pregnancies are threatened by Lassa infection. 

The researchers have made their stable for storage at room temperature, so it can easily be used in the field. There is another critical benefit of this virus, Schnell explained. "Perhaps more importantly, however, we've discovered how to test for protection, which could vastly improve our ability to translate these findings into a human-ready vaccine," said Schnell.

The vaccine can’t be tested by exposing people to Lassa and then checking for efficacy, so it will have to be evaluated based on animal studies. The researchers will look for antibodies that neutralize the pathogen; the virus binds to the antibody, rendering the pathogen unable to bind to receptors on cells. Then, infection can’t occur. 

"The neutralizing antibody works like putting glue on a key," explained the first author Tiago Abreu-Mota, an MD/PhD student in Dr. Schnell's lab visiting from University of Minho, Portugal. "By junking-up the key, or entry molecule, the virus can no longer open the door to the cell."

Instead of taking the typical route to target the virus, researchers at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and University of California, San Diego (UCSD) aimed for other pieces of the pathogen - it's glycoprotein. The scientists found that in Lassa’s case, this is an effective way to flag viral particles for destruction by the immune system.

The work on this vaccine will continue as scientists seek to bring it to the clinic. Next, the vaccine will be tested in non-human primates.

Sources: Science Daily via Thomas Jefferson University, NIH, Nature Communications

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 26, 2018
Immunology
SEP 26, 2018
What Superbug? A New Antibiotic Contender
Scientists from a biotechnology corporation, Genentech, have altered a protein that blocks a signaling pathway in gram-negative bacteria to engineer a new antibiotic, currently called G0775,...
OCT 19, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 19, 2018
A Newly Discovered Bacterial Toxin Reveals More About Bacterial Warfare
Even bacteria have to use self-defense. Some deploy toxins that they can use to dominate other microbial competitors....
NOV 08, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 08, 2018
A Mix of Baby Saliva and Breastmilk Helps Regulate the Developing Microbiome
As we learn more about the infant microbiome, we may be able to help ensure that every baby is building a healthy one....
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
The Fight Bite
  Human bite wounds are a common source of polymicrobial infections accounting for many emergency room visits. One bacteria, Eikenella corrodens, ...
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Infections in Tattoos
Contracting an infection when getting a tattoo is always a major concern. Consumers should be aware of the risk of developing infections with bloodborne pa...
NOV 25, 2018
Drug Discovery
NOV 25, 2018
Advancing Drug Therapies for an Increasing Case of a Parasitic infection Among Displaced Syrians
Cases of Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), a parasitic disease, has increased dramatically in Syria and neighboring countries as a result of the conflict-relat...
Loading Comments...