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University of Oxford starts human trials to develop vaccine against Nipah virus 

The first human trials for a vaccine against Nipah virus have been started by the University of Oxford, according to a statement.

HQ Team

January 11, 2023: The first human trials for a vaccine against Nipah virus have been started by the University of Oxford, according to a statement.

The ChAdOx1 NipahB vaccine is being developed by researchers at the University of Pandemic Sciences Institute – a research facility with a mission to discover, create and enable practical solutions to infectious disease threats worldwide.

Fifty-one people aged between 18 and 55 will participate in the trial, led by the Oxford Vaccine Group within the Department for Paediatrics, and funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

The project will run over the next 18 months, with further trials expected to follow in a Nipah-affected country.

Nipah virus infection, a zoonotic illness, is spread to humans through contact with infected animals such as bats and pigs. Additionally, direct contact with an infected individual can also lead to transmission, although this route is less common.

Respiratory infection

Those affected by Nipah virus infection may experience severe symptoms, including acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis.

Nipah virus can be fatal in around 75% of cases. Outbreaks have occurred in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh and India, with a recent outbreak in Kerala, India in September 2023. 

The disease is carried by fruit bats and may also be transmitted by contact with infected animals or from person to person via close contact.

Nipah, recognised by the World Health Organization as a priority disease requiring urgent research, belongs to the same family of paramyxoviruses as more well-known pathogens like measles.

Despite the first outbreaks of Nipah virus occurring 25 years ago in Malaysia and Singapore, there are currently no approved vaccines or treatments.

“Nipah virus was first identified in 1998, and yet 25 years on the global health community still has no approved vaccines or treatments for this devastating disease. Due to the high mortality rate and the nature of Nipah virus transmission, the disease is identified as a priority pandemic pathogen,” said Professor Brian Angus, the trial’s Principal Investigator and Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Centre for Clinical Tropical Medicine and Global Health.

Epidemic potential

“This vaccine trial is an important milestone in identifying a solution that could prevent local outbreaks from occurring, while also helping the world prepare for a future global pandemic.”

According to India’s National Institute of Virology, Pune, the virus found in Kerala has been identified as the Indian genotype or I-genotype and is similar to the Nipah virus strain found in Bangladesh. The case-fatality rates in outbreaks across Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, and Singapore range from 40% to 100%.

“Nipah has epidemic potential, with its fruit bat hosts found in areas home to over two billion people. This trial is a step forward in building a suite of tools to protect against this killer virus,” said Dr In-Kyu Yoon, Acting Executive Director of Vaccine Research and development at CEPI, one of the leading global funders of Nipah virus research.

“Knowledge gained could also inform the development of other paramyxovirus countermeasures.”

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