Scientists develop Nipah virus jab that 'gives protection in 3 DAYS'

Scientists develop Nipah virus vaccine that may give life-saving protection in just THREE DAYS

  • Monkeys given the jab seven days before a lethal dose of Nipah virus survived
  • Two-thirds given shot three days in advance lived, in sign jab protection is rapid 
  • No approved vaccines for Nipah in humans but eight are in preclinical studies 

A vaccine that could protect against the deadly Nipah virus in just three days has been developed by scientists. 

All six monkeys given the experimental jab seven days before being exposed to a lethal dose of the disease survived. Two-thirds of primates given the shot three days in advance lived.

Like Covid, Nipah can spread through respiratory droplets. But it is far more deadly, killing up to three-quarters of people it infects. 

It has been listed as one of the viruses most likely to cause the next pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

There is currently no vaccine approved for humans — but at least eight are currently being tested on animals, including one made by Oxford University.

However, most studies suggest immunity takes about a month to five weeks to kick in. 

A rapid vaccine that may protect people from the deadly Nipah virus in just three days has been developed by scientists  (pictured, an illustration of the individual viruses)

The new jab works like the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, using a weakened virus to deliver a chunk of Nipah’s protein to the cells, where it cannot replicate.

It gives the body the chance to get a read of the virus so it can recognise and fight the real thing.  

The Nipah virus (NiV) is a type of henipavirus, which are naturally held in fruit bats.

The virus can cause illness in pigs and humans, and can be spread to humans from animals, infected food and other people with the virus.

Symptoms may appear between five and 14 days after becoming infected, and can last up to two weeks.

They include: fever, headache, drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. 

Symptoms may progress to a coma, and some patients have breathing problems. 

The virus is thought to be fatal in up to 75 per cent of cases.

There is no vaccine or cure, but patients may receive supportive treatment to relieve symptoms.

Nipah virus infection can be prevented by avoiding exposure to sick pigs and bats in endemic areas and not drinking raw date palm sap. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

The vaccine uses a virus from the same family as rabies that has been modified so it cannot cause symptoms. 

It acts as a vehicle deliver the harmless protein to the cells.

Once inside, the cells display the protein on their surface, and the immune system recognises that it doesn’t belong there.

This triggers an immune response in which antibodies and T-cells are released, simulating what would happen in the event of a real infection. 

The body then keeps a memory of this process so it knows how to deal with the real Nipah virus in the future. 

University of Texas researchers trialled the jab on 12 monkeys and used six as a control group.

Half were given the vaccine a week before a deadly dose of Nipah and the other half were given it three days prior.

In the seven-day group, all vaccinated monkeys survived and showed no signs of illness, compared to a 100 per cent fatality rate in the control group.

Among those given the shot three days before, 67 per cent survived but most were symptomatic.

Writing in the paper, the researchers said: ‘There are currently no NiV [Nipah virus] vaccines licensed for human use. 

‘While several preventive vaccines have shown promise in protecting animals against lethal NiV disease, most studies have assessed protection 1 month after vaccination.

‘However, in order to contain and control outbreaks, vaccines that can rapidly confer protection in days rather than months are needed.’

Outbreaks of the Nipah virus are rare, with only around 700 cases reported since the virus was first discovered in Malaysia in 1999.

A 12-year-old boy died during an outbreak in India last year, where outbreaks are most common, along with Bangladesh.

It is also present in bats in Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines and Thailand, suggesting there is potential for it to spread among people there.

The WHO says the virus is a public health concern because ‘it infects a wide range of animals and causes severe disease and death in people’.

It lists Nipah alongside other deadly, threatening diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever, Zika, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and Rift Valley fever.

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