Biotech Updates

New genetically-engineered vaccines target Rift Valley Fever

August 26, 2011

Rift Valley Fever is a viral disease of livestock that people can contract through a mosquito bite or by direct contact with infected animals or their meat. The disease is the cause of major losses of livestock since 1931 in Africa which is manifested by abortion among pregnant sheep. In humans, it causes fever, hepatitis, vision loss and occasionally hemorrhagic fever.

A collaboration of research scientists from UC Davis, University of Connecticut, and the University of Texas Medical Branch has developed vaccines against the disease through genetic engineering. The researchers introduced two Rift Valley fever genes to inactivated vaccinia virus, the same virus used to make smallpox vaccine. The two vaccines differ in the presence of another gene to further weaken the vaccinia virus and enhance the safety of vaccine during delivery to livestock.

The two vaccines are easy to produce in large scale and will not require refrigeration. They have also been tested to be safe and produced significant immune responses when tested in mice and baboons, but further tests are needed to check its safety and effectivity in sheep and cattle.

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