Press release

PHE announce world's first Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever vaccine

The first vaccine against Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus gives 100% protection in an experimental model in mice.

Hyalomma marginatum

Scientists at Public Health England (PHE) have engineered a novel vaccine against Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus, announced today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The vaccine was able to give 100% protection against CCHF in an experimental model in mice. This is the first report that an experimental CCHF vaccine can be effective in such a challenge model. The experimental vaccine uses a friendly virus, which has an excellent safety record in over 100,000 people, to present the components of CCHF virus and induce a protective immune response to this severe disease.

Professor Miles Carroll, a deputy director and head of research at microbiology services at PHE said:

This is a significant breakthrough and demonstrates the potential to develop a publically available vaccine against Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

Viruses don’t have borders. Our work on CCHF not only demonstrates our commitment to the health of the UK, but also our scientists desire to combat infections worldwide.

Professor Roger Hewson, a scientific leader at PHE said:

This report provides the first demonstration of protection by a CCHF vaccine, in a model system. The current data look promising and represent progress in the search for a medical intervention that can be used to protect against CCHF.

CCHF is endemic in many countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe, including Turkey and Bulgaria. Since 2001 new outbreaks have been reported in tourist areas including Greece, India and Pakistan. More than 4400 cases have occurred in Turkey since 2002. In 2012, a lethal case of CCHF occurred in a UK citizen returning to Glasgow from Afghanistan.

People most at risk are agricultural workers, health-care workers and military personnel deployed to endemic areas. CCHF is most often transmitted by a tick bite but can also be spread through contact with infected patients or animals.

ends

Notes to editors

  • A copy of this paper is available from the PLOS ONE site

  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a viral haemorrhagic fever caused by a virus of the Nairovirus group. CCHF is a zoonosis, and infects a range of domestic and wild animals. It is spread via the bite of an infected tick. CCHF was first described in the Crimea in 1944, among soldiers and agricultural workers, and in 1969 it was recognised that the virus causing the disease was identical to a virus isolated from a child in the Congo in 1956.

  • Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.

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Published 13 March 2014