Cuba testing dengue vaccine on animals

Beijing: Cuba is testing a recombinant vaccine against dengue fever on animals, which is considered to be one of the most advanced projects of its kind, compared to other preclinical studies undertaken at the international level, a Cuban scientist said Friday.

The vaccine is composed of a protein that works by inducing cells to generate neutralizing antibodies, said Alienys Izquierdo Oliva, a member of the National Dengue Vaccine Project.

"If we have neutralizing antibodies, then we will have protection," said Izquierdo, who is participating in the ongoing 13th International Course on Dengue and its Control at Havana`s Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine.

The vaccine is currently undergoing preclinical studies on mice and monkeys, marking the last stage of test trials on animals before clinical trials can begin on humans, the scientist said, adding "so far (the vaccine) has proven to be effective in controlling the replication of the virus in these animals, demonstrating the potential to protect against the disease."

According to the Cuban specialist, the advantage of the vaccine being developed in Cuba is that it is not a live virus with the ability to replicate and sensitize an individual to developing other severe forms of the disease.

Other vaccines carry the risk of exposing the inoculated person to a second infection from another strain, which could be an even more severe form of the disease, she said, adding that, "That is the main problem of the other vaccines being developed currently around the world, though they are in the most advanced stage of clinical trials."

However, the Cuban expert said that there is still some way to go before Cuba can introduce an effective vaccine against dengue to the world.

Dengue, transmitted by the "Aedes aegypti" mosquito, can be fatal, with symptoms that include high fever, muscle aches, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and possibly a skin rash.

Many countries in the Americas are reporting the simultaneous circulation of more than one type of the four types of dengue.