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Smallpox vaccine alternative identified
Date:1/7/2008

Irvine, Calif., Jan. 7, 2008 University of California, Irvine infectious disease researchers have shown the effectiveness of a potential alternative to the existing smallpox vaccine that can replace the current biodefense stockpile for this lethal virus.

Philip Felgner and Huw Davies with the Department of Medicine found that the modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) produced the same antiviral response in human and animal studies as the current smallpox vaccine, Dryvax. The study is part of a national effort to develop a replacement for the Dryvax vaccine, which causes serious complications in some people. The results are published in the Journal of Virology.

Studies have shown MVA to be a much safer vaccine product that takes advantage of modern technology, Felgner said. We are pleased that our advanced analytical methods may help to bring an effective and safer vaccine to the public.

Smallpox was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980; the last naturally occurring case in the world was in Somalia in 1977. Routine vaccination against smallpox in the U.S. stopped in 1972, and Dryvax production was halted in 1982.

Both Dryvax and MVA are strains of vaccinia virus, which is related to the smallpox virus. The antibodies created by vaccinia virus infection protect a person against a lethal smallpox infection, making it suitable for use as a vaccine. Unlike smallpox virus, vaccinia creates a very mild infection and is completely safe for healthy individuals.

Although Dryvax was effective during the eradication campaign in the 1960s and 70s, its manufacturing methods are outdated by todays standards, and it is also associated with significant risk of adverse reactions for immune-compromised individuals.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, identified MVA as a possible candidate to replace Dryvax. MVA was first developed in the 1970s and has be
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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
Source:Eurekalert

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