Plague vaccine trial to start using AstraZeneca COVID jab tech

pharmafile | August 19, 2021 | News story | |   

The University of Oxford has begun a Phase I trial using a plague vaccine based on the ChAdOx1 adenovirus viral vector platform also used in the successful Oxford coronavirus vaccine.

The trial will enlist at least 40 healthy 18- to 55-year-olds test the vaccine in order to assess side effects and determine how well it induces protective antibody and T cell responses.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of vaccines to defend populations from the threat caused by bacteria and viruses.

“Plague threatened the world in several horrific waves over past millennia, and, even today, outbreaks continue to disrupt communities. A new vaccine to prevent plague is important for them and for our health security.”

Although for much of the world plague has been eliminated, cases do continue to occur annually in rural areas of Africa, Asia and even America.

There are three different types of plague: bubonic, pneumonic and septicaemic. If left untreated, the bubonic form has a 30 percent to 60 percent fatality rate and the pneumonic form is almost always fatal. Both bubonic and pneumonic plague can develop into a life-threatening infection of the blood called septicaemia.

From 2010 to 2015, there were 3,248 cases reported globally, including 584 deaths. A relatively recent epidemic in Madagascar saw 2,119 suspected cases and 171 deaths from August 2017 to November 2017.

Christine Rollier, Associate Professor of Vaccinology at the Oxford Vaccine Group, said:

“Although antibiotics can be used to treat plague, many areas experiencing outbreaks are very remote locations. In such areas, an effective vaccine could offer a successful prevention strategy to combat the disease.”

Like the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, the jab uses a weakened version of a common-cold virus – adenovirus – from chimpanzees that has been genetically altered so it cannot cause an infection in people.

This vaccine does not contain plague bacterium and so cannot cause plague.

But it does include added genes that make proteins from the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis.

And this should teach the body’s immune system how to fend off the real infection, should it ever need to.

Volunteers for the trial will receive expert follow up for 12 months, before the researchers begin evaluating the data in order to report their findings.

Kat Jenkins

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