Tartu virologists create vaccine candidate for Chikungunya and Zika

The vaccine candidate has shown promising results in tests on mice and monkeys.
The vaccine candidate has shown promising results in tests on mice and monkeys. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Researchers at the University of Tartu, together with international specialists, are working on a vaccine candidate against the Chikungunya and Zika viruses that has shown exceptionally good results on animals.

The Chikungunya and Zika viruses come from the same region and are transmitted by the same mosquitoes. Also, the symptoms caused by the viruses are similar: high temperature, severe headaches, and an acute skin rash.

After years and years of relative obscurity, the Chikungunya is now considered the medically most important alpha virus in the world. It started spreading on a massive scale in 2005, and despite the much greater media coverage of the Zika virus is a much more serious viral disease.

A person infected with Chikungunya may have to stay in hospital for two or three weeks, and may later suffer from severe joint pain for several years. Above all else, the arthritis triggered by the virus attacks wrists, fingers, ankles, and other limb joints.

Alongside colleagues from Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, and Singapore, the university’s researchers succeeded in creating one of just a few anti-Chikungunya vaccine candidates. Theirs has shown exceptionally good results in preclinical studies on mice and monkeys. 

Andres Merits, professor of applied virology at the University of Tartu, is hoping that Austrian pharmaceutical company Valneva, who are interested, are going to start clinical trials. “Maybe such trials are in progress already, because we are constantly asked for additional information, but we don’t know for certain. They have never reported it,” Merits said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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