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Oxford University Launches First Human Vaccine Trials For Nipah Virus

Written by : Nikita Saha

January 16, 2024

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Reportedly, the early-stage trial will evaluate vaccine safety and immune response in 51 individuals aged 18-55 who recently received doses.

In a move to combat the deadly Nipah virus, the University of Oxford has initiated the first-in-human trials of its ChAdOx1 NipahB vaccine. The project will run over the next 18 months with further trials expected in a Nipah-affected country.

The experimental shot is being developed by the university’s Pandemic Sciences Institute and uses the same viral vector technology as the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with pharma giant AstraZeneca.

Reportedly, the early-stage trial will evaluate the vaccine’s safety and immune response in 51 people aged between 18 and 55 who received their doses over the past week.

Despite the first outbreaks of the Nipah virus occurring 25 years ago, there are currently no approved vaccines or treatments. This trial represents a significant step forward in efforts to build a suite of tools to protect against this killer virus.

More about the Trial

In-Kyu Yoon, leader, Vaccine R&D, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a group that finances projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, including the Oxford trial, said, “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 efforts to build a suite of tools to protect against this killer virus.”

The trial's findings may contribute to the development of countermeasures for Paramyxovirus, a large viral group that includes the often fatal Hendra virus, critical threats like measles and mumps and a number of devastating animal diseases like canine distemper and rinderpest, a “cattle plague” that, along with smallpox, is one of only two diseases ever eradicated by humans.

While Brian Angus, the trial’s lead investigator and professor of infectious diseases at Oxford, emphasised that the trial is an important milestone in tackling Nipah, both by finding a way of preventing local outbreaks and also helping the world prepare for a future global pandemic.

Deadly Nipah Virus

The WHO identifies Nipah as one of just 10 diseases that have the potential to spark the world’s next pandemic as it lacks countermeasures. The deadly virus joins three diseases caused by COVID-19, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)—as well as Zika, Ebola, Marburg, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and Rift Valley Fever on the list.

Reportedly, the Nipah virus can be fatal in up to 75% of cases. The virus has caused outbreaks in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and India. Health experts, including at the World Health Organisation (WHO), consider Nipah to be a major public health threat and an urgent priority for research and development.

In 2023, there were six laboratory-confirmed cases of Nipah virus in India. These cases were reported between September 12 and 15, 2023, in Kozhikode district, Kerala. Out of these six cases, two were fatal. Infections can be devastating, with symptoms ranging from headaches and coughing to brain swelling, seizures, and coma.

Government’s Initiative to Combat Nipah

An outbreak in Nipah in India last year sparked concern among health officials, who raced to track down cases and contain the virus. For instance, in September, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) under the Union Department of Biotechnology launched a cutting-edge and well-equipped mobile virology testing laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The initiative aims to strengthen the efforts to combat the Nipah virus infection that was widely spreading across the state.

The mobile lab can conduct tests for bacteria, fungi, and other pathogenic organisms, along with food quality assessment. It is built with a double airlock system featuring onboard decontamination and biological waste processing capabilities.

Earlier in 2019, the Tamil Nadu government launched a similar initiative, where the state government had set up mobile medical teams in seven districts bordering Kerala to screen passengers entering the state for Nipah virus with symptoms including fever, acute encephalitis, and headache.


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