Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 109 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 18-Apr-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 19-Apr-2004
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DNA vaccine may protect against smallpox

A DNA based vaccine may protect against smallpox say researchers from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Their findings appear in the May 2004 issue of the Journal of Virology.

"All viruses in the genus Orthopoxvirus, family Poxviridae, including VACV (the virus used in the current smallpox vaccine), monkeypox virus (MPOV), and variola virus (the virus that causes smallpox), are highly similar in the majority of their nearly 200 proteins, which accounts superficially for the cross-protection among these viruses," say the researchers.

The researchers tested a DNA-based vaccine containing genes from the orthopox family of viruses. It successfully prevented monkeypox virus infection in monkeys, an indicator that it could protect against smallpox in humans. A DNA based vaccine would not have the adverse side effects commonly associated with the live vaccine, such as the dangerous heart inflammation that halted a recent clinical trial.

"We demonstrated here that a DNA vaccine compromised of four VACV genes and administered by gene gun is capable of protecting nonhuman primates against severe monkeypox," say the researchers. "Such a vaccine would contribute greatly to vaccination strategies aimed at reducing the health hazards of the present smallpox vaccine."

(J.W. Hooper, E. Thompson, C. Wilhelmsen, M. Zimmerman, M. Ait Ichou, S.E. Steffen, C.S. Schmaljohn, A.L. Schmaljohn, and P.B. Jahrling. 2004. Smallpox DNA vaccine protects nonhuman primates against lethal monkeypox. Journal of Virology, 78. 9: 4433-4443.)

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