Scientists at Oxford University initiated the first human vaccine trials for the deadly Nipah virus infection. The trials will consist of 51 people in the age group of 18–55 for the vaccine ChAdOx1 NipahB, which will be directed by Oxford Vaccine Group.
This deadly Nipah virus impact is seen in many Asian countries, including India. According to the researchers, the Nipah virus is a devastating disease that can be fatal in around 75 percent of cases. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and India, with a recent one in Kerala in September last year.
The researchers also said that the Nipah virus is carried by fruit bats and is also transmitted by contact with infected animals, such as pigs, or from person to person via close contact.
The World Health Organization identified the Nipah virus as a priority disease that requires urgent research, and the virus belongs to the same family of paramyxoviruses as more well-known pathogens like measles. The first outbreak of the Nipah virus infection occurred 25 years ago in Malaysia and Singapore; presently, there are no approved vaccines or treatments.
Brian Angus, the trial’s principal investigator from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, says that the Nipah virus was first identified in 1998, and yet, 25 years later, there are still no approved vaccines or treatments for this devastating disease in the global health community.
Brian Angus added that due to the high mortality rate and the nature of Nipah virus transmission, the disease is identified as a priority pandemic pathogen. This vaccine trial is an important milestone in recognizing a solution that could prevent local outbreaks from occurring while also helping the world prepare for a future global pandemic.
In-Kyu Yoon, acting director of vaccine research and development at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said that Nipah has epidemic potential, with its fruit bat hosts found in areas that are home to over two billion people. This trial is a step forward in action to build a suite of tools to protect against this killer virus. Knowledge attained could also inform the development of other paramyxovirus countermeasures.
The researchers also enunciate that the vaccine uses the chAdOx1 platform, which is the same viral vaccine platform that was used for the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The project is going to run over the next 18 months, with further trials foreseen to follow in a Nipah-affected country.
The project is funded by CEPI, a global coalition that supports the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.
An early-stage clinical trial of the Nipah virus vaccine was initiated by Moderna (MRNA.O.) in 2022. It was co-developed with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus, which means it can spread between animals and people. Fruit bats, also called flying foxes, are the animal reservoir for the Nipah virus in nature. The Nipah virus is also known to cause disease in pigs and people. Infection with the Nipah virus is associated with encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and can cause severe illness and even death.
(Input from various sources)