Chikungunya virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms of infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
A novel vaccine, based on a modified measles virus, promises to be safe and effective against the chikungunya virus, results of a clinical trial published in the journal The Lancet, have shown.
The vaccine is injected into muscle and triggers the production of antibodies in the lymphatic system. If the person is infected with the chikungunya virus, these antibodies are ready to neutralise the virus so that the disease does not take hold.
The Phase II trial, led by University of Vienna in Austria, showed that just two injections are enough to provide immunity, regardless of whether these are given at an interval of one or six months.
The results “are really very promising in terms of immunogenicity, safety and tolerability of the vaccine”, said Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, Professor from the varsity.
The vaccine is a live vaccine based on the measles virus vaccinal strain, which has been genetically modified to express the surface proteins of chikungunya.
Neutralising antibodies are formed after a single vaccination. Chikungunya fever is an emerging viral disease and substantial threat to public health and the virus is spreading throughout the world particularly in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
In addition, it increases or boosts the protective substances or antibodies against measles.
The Phase II trials was conducted over 263 volunteers.
Currently there is no specific treatment capable of halting the chikungunya virus and the associated high fever with severe muscle, limb and joint pain, which can even prove fatal under certain circumstances.