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Yellow Fever Vaccine Trial Gets Underway

Credit: Shutterstock
Yellow Fever
Credit: Shutterstock

Yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa. It caused an estimated 84,000 to 170,000 severe cases of disease and 29,000 to 60,000 deaths in 2013, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Yellow fever has recently re-emerged as a major public health threat in parts of Africa. Although a vaccine exists to prevent this serious disease, it is currently in short supply, and it is not recommended for certain populations, such as pregnant women and people older than 60 years,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “We must develop new options for preventing this terrible disease.”

Read also: Angola Challenged by Worst Yellow Fever Outbreak in Decades

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, this week announced the start of a Phase 1 clinical trial of an investigational yellow fever vaccine produced by the Danish biopharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic.

The study is evaluating whether an experimental vaccine (MVA-BN-YF) developed is safe, tolerable and has the potential to prevent yellow fever virus infection.

The vaccine is based on the Bavarian Nordic’s proprietary MVA-BN platform, which uses an attenuated (weakened) version of the Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) virus as a vaccine vector to carry yellow fever virus genes into the body. According to the company, more than 7,600 people, including 1,000 individuals who are immunocompromised, have been safely vaccinated with MVA-BN-based vaccines.

The placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical trial will enroll 90 healthy men and women ages 18 to 45 who have never been infected with a flavivirus, the family of viruses that includes yellow fever virus, West Nile virus, dengue and Zika virus, among others.

Participants will be divided into six groups: One will receive the currently licensed yellow fever vaccine (15 participants) and five groups (15 participants each) will receive the investigational Bavarian Nordic vaccine, either with or without an adjuvant, a substance that is added to a vaccine to increase the body’s immune response to the vaccine. The investigational vaccine will be administered intramuscularly while the licensed yellow fever vaccine will be administered subcutaneously. Trial participants will receive one or two doses of vaccine or placebo, separated by a month.

Read also: U.S. Military Impacted by Yellow Fever Vaccine Shortage

Previous laboratory and animal studies have suggested that combining MVA-BN with ISA 720, an experimental immune-boosting adjuvant that has been used in prior clinical trials, induces a strong immune response after a single dose of vaccine. One goal of the study will be to assess whether two doses of unadjuvanted vaccine or a single dose of ISA 720 adjuvanted vaccine could provide protection against yellow fever.

The multi-site clinical trial will be conducted by NIAID-funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs) at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Saint Louis University in Missouri. Emory Vaccine Center in Decatur, Georgia will assist in evaluating data.

Additional details about the trial can be found at ClinicalTrials.gov using the identifier NCT02743455.

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