Two Rift Valley fever vaccines provide solid results

Scientists at the University of California, Davis, University of Connecticut and University of Texas Medical Branch have developed two potential vaccines for the mosquito-borne Rift Valley fever. There are currently no preventative vaccines for humans, and, according to the researchers, no efficient, approved vaccine for livestock.

While the illness typically affects livestock in the Middle East and Africa, humans can become infected via tainted meat or contact with infected livestock or mosquitoes. The disease can cause fever, hepatitis, vision loss and hemorrhagic fever in humans.

"Because Rift Valley fever is spread by mosquitoes, there is concern that the disease could be accidentally or intentionally introduced to North America and other regions where it is not now found," said Tilahun Yilma, the lead author on the study and a professor of veterinary medicine at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "Such an introduction could have devastating economic and human health implications."

While the vaccines are primarily focused on treating livestock, Yilma sees promise for the vaccines as a treatment for humans. The vaccines, which are derived from the vaccinia virus--also used in smallpox vaccines--prevented 90% of Rift Valley fever cases in a mouse study. The scientists are already planning trials with sheep and cattle.

Many researchers have been focusing their efforts recently on mosquito-borne illnesses, including a recent Inviragen pact to find a vaccine for the chikungunya virus.

- read the UC Davis release