Research Areas:

Mosquito-borne Diseases

Dengue virus, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever virus and Zika virus are mosquito-borne viruses that cause an infection in people. In most people the infection is transient and without clinically relevant illness. Approximately 1% of the patients suffer from complications. Nowadays, over 700 million people get infected with a mosquito-borne virus each year. Due to the growth of the human population and global warming this number is expected to increase dramatically over the next decades.

So far vaccines are only available for Dengue virus and Yellow fever virus but these vaccines have severe limitations and are not advised to people that run the highest risk for complications, namely children, older people and those people with an impaired immune system.

BPRC developed several infection models to investigate mosquito-borne viruses. In 2019 these models were mainly used for proof of concept-studies for vaccines and antiviral medicines.

 

An antiviral medicine against dengue virus

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There are four different types of dengue viruses. A first infection results in lifelong protection against infection with the same serotype. However, if the second infection occurs with another serotype the patient has in increased chance to develop disease. This phenomenon is called antibody dependent enhancement (ADE). Severe dengue disease is a potentially deadly complication due to plasma leakage, fluid accumulation, respiratory distress, severe bleedings, or organ impairment. Every year half a million patients require hospitalization and about 20,000 people die of severe dengue.

In collaboration with a European partner we performed a preclinical study to evaluate an antiviral medicine. The results of this proof of concept-study were promising. The treated animals had less virus in their blood compared to the non-treated animals. But more research is needed.

 

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A new DNA-vaccine technology platform tested in rhesus macaques

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Yellow fever is a vaccine-preventable mosquito-borne virus infection. However, the commercially available vaccines are so called life-attenuated vaccines and cannot be used in children and older people. In addition, the production of these vaccines is time consuming, requires batch-to-batch evaluation and refrigerated distribution. This hampers a rapid response in case of an outbreak. On top of that, recent outbreaks caused a severe vaccine shortage.
 
New generation vaccines may overcome these problems. DNA vaccines are safe, can be rapidly produced and do not require a cold chain. However, not all DNA vaccines are effective.

BPRC is collaborating in a consortium funded by the EU. The project aims to develop a dual- target rabies/flavivirus DNA vaccine. The first step in this project was to investigate if the DNA-vaccine that encodes for a live-attenuated yellow fever virus still works as a vaccine. To test this, we performed a proof of concept study in monkeys. Our study showed that the DNA vaccine was indeed capable of inducing an immune response. Yet, not in all animals. Currently our collaborators in the project are modifying this DNA-vaccine so that it can also induce an immune response against rabies. Read more >

 

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Development of in vitro methods for mosquito-borne viruses

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HONOURs is an international Innovative Training Network funded by the European Commission. The aim of the project is to train 15 PhD students in all aspects involved in host switching pathogens, infectious outbreaks and zoonosis. Preparedness requires expertise in many areas. The Early Stage Researchers are therefore located at academia and research institutes throughout Europe that together cover the entire field of outbreak-control. BPRC is involved as expert on modeling infectious diseases in non-human primates. In this program we focus on the development of in vitro methods to evaluate pathological events after infection with mosquito-borne viruses. Read more >

 

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