In 2006, India witnessed a severe epidemic of chikungunya with a record 1.3 million cases reported; within a decade, this number has doubled. The mosquito plague manages to resurge every year especially in the monsoons. With no specific treatment available to combat the viral infection, patients have no option but to endure the pain or opt for painkillers.

In a medical breakthrough, American researchers have developed a safe and a highly potent vaccine for Chikungunya. The vaccine has been reportedly developed from an insect specific virus which otherwise has no adverse effect on people, making it the perfect choice for making the vaccine.vaccine

Chikungunya is a disease caused by a virus that is spread via mosquito bites. Symptoms of chikungunya include fever, joint and muscle pain, occasionally with a rash, severe headache or joint swelling. Some patients may recover within a week, while others can develop long term joint pains that can last years. Death is rare. Treatment consists of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines to subside the pain and swelling of joints.

There is always a dilemma when choosing to prepare live attenuated vaccines that are prepared from a live pathogen that can be replicated quickly but offer reduced safety or to develop a vaccine from an inactivated virus that offers safety but requires several booster doses to deem it effective. This dilemma was resolved when the Eilat virus was chosen.

Researchers used a hybrid clone of the  Eilat virus which is structurally identical to the natural chikungunya virus. The virus when injected in mice and non primates, developed robust antibodies within the first four days that lasted for almost 290 days offering strong immunity. The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Although there is no commercial vaccine for chikungunya available in the market as of today, this novel vaccine could help control the disease in the years to come.

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M.B.B.S., MBA(Healthcare management), 5+ years experience

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