The first participants have received doses of a new vaccine against Nipah virus in a clinical trial by University of Oxford researchers.
Nipah virus is a devastating disease mostly found in South-East Asia that can be fatal in up to 75 percent of cases. This first-in-human trial of the vaccine comes as the global health community marks 25 years since the first Nipah virus outbreaks. There are still no approved vaccines or treatments for the disease.
The vaccine is being developed by researchers at the Pandemic Sciences Institute. Fifty-one people aged 18 to 55 will participate in the trial, which will be led by the Oxford Vaccine Group and funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The Oxford Vaccine Group’s work to tackle outbreak pathogens is supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
The new vaccine uses the same ChAdOx1 viral vector vaccine platform as that used to develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
The project will run over the next 18 months, with further trials expected to follow in a Nipah-affected country.
Nipah virus outbreaks have occurred in Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh and India, with a recent outbreak in Kerala, India in September 2023. Nipah virus is carried by fruit bats and may also be transmitted by contact with infected animals (such as pigs) or from person to person via close contact.
The virus, which is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a priority disease requiring urgent research, belongs to the same family of paramyxoviruses as more well-known pathogens such as measles.
Professor Brian Angus, Principal Investigator of the trial, said: “Nipah virus was first identified in 1998, and yet 25 years on the global health community still has no approved vaccines or treatments for this devastating disease. Due to the high mortality rate and the nature of Nipah virus transmission, the disease is identified as a priority pandemic pathogen. This vaccine trial is an important milestone in identifying a solution that could prevent local outbreaks occurring, while also helping the world prepare for a future global pandemic.”
Dr In-Kyu Yoon, Acting Executive Director of Vaccine Research & Development at CEPI, one of the leading global funders of Nipah virus research,said: “Nipah has epidemic potential, with its fruit bat hosts found in areas home to over two billion people. This trial is a step forward in efforts to build a suite of tools to protect against this killer virus. Knowledge gained could also inform the development of other paramyxovirus countermeasures.”
The vaccine trial is a key part of the Pandemic Sciences Institute’s Henipavirus Programme, which is working with partners in endemic countries to develop practical tools that will ensure the world is better prepared for future outbreaks. This includes providing world-leading biomedical research and developing ethical frameworks to minimise stigma from the disease.