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New research to develop vaccines against deadly henipaviruses 

A new collaboration between the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and The Pirbright Institute has been launched to support the development of vaccines against Henipavirus – a genus of viruses including Nipah virus. The research has been funded by the Medical Research Council.

The aim is to develop a vaccine that provides cross-protection against the whole genus, addressing outbreaks, and enhancing epidemic preparedness.

Nipah virus can be transmitted to humans from animals and can cause a range of symptoms including severe respiratory illness and encephalitis. The virus poses a current and future threat to global health because the infection has a high fatality rate and there are no licensed vaccines or treatments at present. 

Nipah virus is also on the World Health Organization’s priority pathogen list – a group of pathogens causing infectious diseases that have pandemic potential. Recent cases and outbreaks have predominantly been detected in Bangladesh and India. There have been no cases in the UK to date, but effective vaccines against this virus would provide protection to people in countries where the virus is endemic and potentially protect against imported cases.  

Nipah virus belongs to a genus of viruses (henipavirus), and it is possible that a novel virus in this group could emerge, with potential to cause an outbreak. Therefore, rather than focusing on one specific virus as the target for vaccination, the aim is to develop a vaccine that provides cross protection against the whole genus (pan-henipavirus vaccine) addressing the threat of outbreaks from new or emerging henipaviruses and strengthening epidemic preparedness.

Scientists at UKHSA will use a model of Nipah virus disease, which mimics the infection in humans, to evaluate vaccines developed by The Pirbright Institute to determine their protective effects.

Professor Isabel Oliver, Chief Scientific Officer at UKHSA said: “This study will deepen our understanding of henipaviruses and make significant progress in our efforts to protect health from this current and future global health threat. The work will also make a vital contribution to the 100 Days Mission - an important initiative to make sure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic by accelerating the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.”

UKHSA recently launched its world-leading Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC), which is building on its pandemic legacy and helping develop life-saving new vaccines for the UK and worldwide. The centre has a unique set of capabilities specialising in high consequence infectious diseases and working to the highest standards of safety, quality and security, making its research and outputs trusted worldwide.

 

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Upcoming Events

Pathology Horizons 2024

MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel, Bath
18-20 April, 2024

Diagnostics North East Conference 2024

The Catalyst, Newcastle upon Tyne
19 April, 2024

ECCMID 2024 - European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

Fira Gran Via, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
27-30 April 2024

British Society for Microbial Technology Annual Microbiology Conference

UK Health Security Agency, Colindale, London
2 May 2024

EQA Reports: Interpreting Key Information & Troubleshooting Tips

ONLINE - Zoom
Thursday 16th May 2024

Participants’ Meeting: UK NEQAS Immunology, Immunochemistry & Allergy

Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Howard Street, Sheffield
24th May 2024

Access the latest issue of Pathology In Practice on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

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