The first treatment against the chikungunya virus could arrive soon on the market. French, American and Austrian researchers have developed a vaccine derived from that of measles, the results of which are rather satisfactory.
In recent months, the Ministry of Health announced a "reinforced surveillance" of the tiger mosquito, which flew over at least 42 French departments. The insect is the main vector of the chikungunya virus. It is infected by stinging, initially, a sick traveler. Then, it carries the virus and transmits it to non-immune people. The fact that the tiger mosquito settles in France is fearing an indigenous mode of transmission, that is to say, cases of people bitten and contaminated in mainland France and no longer in the Pacific Ocean.
An epidemic difficult to stem
When a person is affected by the chikungunya virus, she suffers from a high fever accompanied by joint pain. If patients generally recover well, sometimes joint pain can last several months or even years.
The chikungunya virus is one of the most difficult epidemics to treat because it spreads easily, and because there is still no cure for it. A consortium of French, American and Austrian researchers have created a vaccine, based on that of measles. The treatment has passed its second phase of clinical trials successfully, according to the results published in the journal The Lancet.
The treatment is effective in a few weeks
The researchers belong to the MedUni Vienna, the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the Walter Reed Army Institute in the United States. They have developed a live vaccine derived from measles, that is, it contains an infectious agent that is still active. The latter has been genetically modified to match the chikungunya virus. The vaccine contains an antigen too weak to cause the symptoms. On the other hand, it triggers a reaction of the immune system and thus causes the production of antibodies. The first clinical tests were carried out in 2015 on 42 people.
The researchers were able to evaluate the optimal dose of the vaccine to make it effective. The second series of clinical tests, the results of which are published in The Lancet, was performed on 263 volunteers. Some benefited from the vaccine, while others received a placebo. This confirmed the first results: the vaccine did not cause side effects and was effective in just a few weeks. A third cycle of tests is planned. The researchers are hoping for a marketing soon.