Vaccine could be effective after exposure to Marburg virus

A vaccine has been shown to prevent haemorrhagic fever developing in an animal model after exposure to the deadly Marburg virus, with implications for use in humans, according to an article published online today (Thursday April 27, 2006) by The Lancet

A vaccine has been shown to prevent haemorrhagic fever developing in an animal model after exposure to the deadly Marburg virus, with implications for use in humans, according to an article published online today (Thursday April 27, 2006) by The Lancet.

The Marburg virus was first detected in 1967. Like the Ebola virus, Marburg is a filovirus that causes internal bleeding at multiple sites. Both viruses are considered to pose a risk in terms of bio-terrorism attacks. Currently, no effective drugs against Marburg virus exist, and treatment of the symptoms of the disease is rarely effective.

Researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory (PHAC) and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) created a vaccine against Marburg virus by replacing a gene from a harmless virus with a gene encoding a Marburg virus surface protein. The team infected five rhesus monkeys with the Marburg virus and 20-30 minutes later injected them with the vaccine. Another three monkeys infected with Marburg virus acted as controls and received a vaccine without the Marburg protein. They found that all the monkeys given the Marburg protein vaccine as a post-exposure treatment survived for at least 80 days, while the controls succumbed to the disease by day 12.

In a previous study the team had found that the vaccine could prevent against Marburg haemorrhagic fever before infection; the new results suggest that the vaccine could be an effective post-exposure treatment for the disease.

Dr Thomas Geisbert of USAMRIID, one of the study authors, states: "Postexposure protection against MARV [Marburg virus] in non-human primates provides a paradigm for the treatment of MARV haemorrhagic fever. Indeed, these data suggest that rVSV-based [Recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis Virus] filoviral vaccines might not only have potential as preventive vaccines, but also could be equally useful for postexposure treatment of filoviral infections."

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See also accompanying Comment.

Contact: Dr Thomas W Geisbert, USAMRIID, MCMR-UIV, 1425 Porter Street, Fort Detrick, MD 21702-5011, USA; contactable via: Caree Vander Linden Tel: +1 301 619 2285

Dr Heinz Feldman, Public Health Agency of Canada, 1015 Arlington Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 3R2, Canada; contactable via: Elaine Krawchenko Tel: +1 204 789-5046


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