Chikungunya Update: Experimental Vaccine

For months, ICC has been updating supporters about chikungunya, the mosquito-borne virus that has infected more than a half million people in the Western Hemisphere this year. The island of Hispaniola has been hit especially hard. Thousands of Haitians and Dominicans have fallen ill with chikungunya, experiencing the extreme join pain, high fever, headache and nausea that accompanies the virus.

Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for chikungunya. However, a team of researchers at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda hope to change that. NPR reports that the team has designed an experimental vaccine that uses a new technology of virus-like particles.

So far, the results have been promising. Twenty-five people have volunteered to participate in the trial. The virus-like particles were injected into the volunteers' muscles, and their immune systems created antibodies to stop the virus from infecting cells.  

NPR reports that after three injections "the participants had chikungunya antibodies in their blood at concentrations similar to those found in people who had fought off the viral infection." The antibodies remained in the volunteers' blood for at least six months, suggesting that the vaccine could give long-term protection.

The vaccine still needs additional testing on more test subjects in order to determine its effectiveness in halting infection. Overall, NPR reports that the experimental vaccine was "well tolerated by the volunteers," listing a few mild side effects: injection site tenderness, headache and nausea.

ICC will continue to provide updates on the virus and its effects on the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as information regarding the vaccine, as more information unfolds.