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Thailand develops dengue vaccine

1st March 2011

Thai scientists are conducting further tests on a prototype vaccine against dengue fever, saying that they hope to bring the jab to market in the next 10 years.

Mosquito

Researchers from three Thai institutions, the government-funded National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Mahidol University and Chiang Mai University developed the vaccine to protect people against dengue, which is carried by mosquitoes.

Chiang Mai University associate professor Nopporn Sithisombat said the vaccine marked the first time that Thai researchers had managed to design a prototype dengue vaccine with all the attributes the team was aiming for.

The vaccine is being designed for immunisation programmes targeting children.

It will move to human trials next, following successful tests in mice and monkeys.

There is currently no known cure for dengue, which causes a severe illness similar to flu that lasts about a week.

Of the four strains currently circulating, one is potentially deadly.

The vaccine is made from a hybrid dengue virus engineered by the Thai research team that carries genes from all four types of dengue.

Thailand-based biotech company BioNet-Asia has signed a licensing deal with the vaccine's developers which will enable them to develop it further.

They aim to be in a position to release the first commercial batch within the next decade.

Other companies may get there first, however.

Last November, Sanofi-Pasteur, the vaccine arm of France-based pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis, said it was moving to the final stages of clinical development with its dengue vaccine.

Last year, dengue sickened more than 115,000 people in Thailand, and killed 141.

Many of the people who died from dengue were young people, government figures show.

According to Virachai Virameteekul, Thailand's science and technology minister, the vaccine is the result of decades of research by the country's scientists.

Since its emergence during World War II, the threat of dengue fever has spread around the world.

It currently affects around 50 million people a year in 100 countries, from Africa to the Americas, the Mediterranean, southeast Asia and the western Pacific, according to the World Health Organisation.


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