Vaccination for chikungunya may soon be a reality with the successful development of a vaccine by an Indian biotechnology company. Clinical trials are underway to finalise its commercial release. Right now, there is no vaccine or treatment for chikungunya. The chikungunya virus vaccine is expected to be commercially released in 2 to 3 years. The company is proposing to set up the required infrastructure for turning out the vaccine on a large scale. This involves setting up facilities for clinical development of the vaccines that are at an advanced stage.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of USA which is an alliance partner of the Indian bio-pharma company, is also experimenting to develop a vaccine for Chikungunya. The recent reports from NIAID state that experiments on monkeys and mice have shown encouraging results.
Chikungunya was first detected in Tanzania in 1953 but returned in 2004 and 2005. It has now spread to almost 20 countries with millions infected. Chikungunya infection causes a sudden depletion of WBCs (White Blood Cells) in a person which lowers the immunity. The importance of developing a chikungunya vaccine can be understood by the fact that millions of people have suffered and even died due to it. The current treatment is only one of relief from symptoms.
Chikungunya infection was first reported in India at Bangalore but soon spread to hundreds of people across the country. It is not always fatal but causes exhausting pain and can have a prolonged impact on the patient. Chikungunya in India has led to the death of thousands of children and caused serious complications to aged people. NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D says that ‘rise in global travel due to trade and other reasons may be contributing in the spread of the mosquitoes that cause this disease’. He further added that another reason might be global climate change.
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