Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director, and his colleagues have suggested the possible use of a promising new vaccine for people at high risk of contracting a rare, deadly mosquito-borne virus. The recipients would include military personnel and lab workers.
Recently published findings from the first phase of a clinical trial were reported in Science Daily. The results of the trial indicate that the WEVEE vaccine neutralized antibodies in trial participants. The vaccine was developed specifically for the eastern equine encephalitis virus, western equine encephalitis virus, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. Infected mosquitoes are known to cause the virus. Although these virus infections are rarely found in humans, an infected person may have symptoms of the flu, neurological injury, or the infection could cause death. North, Central, and South America have seen outbreaks. There were 38 cases in 2019 in the northeastern part of the U.S., causing fifteen deaths.
About the Phase I Clinical Trial
The researchers were successful in developing an earlier vaccine. Based on that success, they created a new virus-like particle vaccine. The researchers used proteins from the three aforementioned viruses to develop the vaccine. This prompted the desired immune response.
The trial was conducted at Emory University’s Hope Clinic in Atlanta, Georgia. The volunteers (n=30) were healthy and averaged between eighteen to fifty years of age. The WEVEE vaccine was administered via intramuscular injection. The volunteers returned to the clinic in the eighth week 0f the trial and received an identical dose of the vaccine as a booster.
Others were given a formulation called aluminum-containing adjuvants that raised their immune response. Adjuvants help vaccine performance. In order to replicate inside a cell, a virus requires certain genetic material. Since the virus-like particles do not contain this material, they cannot cause infection.
The thirty microgram dose appeared to have the highest neutralizing antibody reaction. These findings call for further clinical investigation.
NIAID has issued a commercialization license to Emergent BioSolutions of Gaithersburg, Maryland to advance the development of WEVEE.
A Risk to National Security
If certain laboratory conditions are met, the viruses can be transmitted by way of aerosol droplets. This can cause infections in humans. The viruses are then labeled as pathogens and become biological agents posing a risk to National Security and public health.
The development of the WEVEE vaccine was sponsored and funded by NIAID and funded partly by the United States Defense Department.