A "nasty" virus that can cause severe impairments and occasionally death in unborn newborns has inspired Australian researchers to create an experimental vaccination against it.
The cytomegalovirus (CMV) which can cause kids to develop serious problems such as cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and developmental delay while still in the womb, is the target of the vaccination, which the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute is hailing as a breakthrough.
For fifteen years, researcher Rajiv Khanna has been developing the vaccine.
He is in talks with possible industrial partners to advance the vaccine and intends to start human trials by 2024.
According to Professor Khanna, the vaccination was effective because it launched a dual immune system assault on the virus, using both antibodies and killer T cells.
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Azaria was born with severe hearing loss due to her mother contracting CMV.[/caption]
"A major reason for vaccines not working for CMV is that most of the previous vaccine formulations have tried to control the virus through … antibodies alone," he said.
"We've learned that antibodies alone are not sufficient. These viruses very cleverly hide inside the cell. And to kill that virus, which is inside the cell, you need killer T cells. We have now brought the two armies of the immune system into one formulation."
In animal trials, the vaccine, according to Professor Khanna, elicited a potent and long-lasting immunological response.
He declared that "the endurance of the immunological response is highly crucial."
Most harmful virus for unborn children
If the vaccine is successful, adolescents would be the primary target group; nevertheless, people of all ages could benefit from it.
You have a one in three risk of passing the virus to the unborn child through the placenta if you don't already have immunity to the virus and are exposed to it while pregnant, according to Professor Khanna.
The virus has been linked to some brain tumors and can seriously harm organ transplant recipients. An estimated 50% of people have the herpes virus known as CMV. A small percentage of people will encounter a condition similar to glandular fever, while the majority never show any symptoms.
However, if a woman contracts the virus while pregnant, it may be hazardous to the baby. Once it affects unborn children, the illness is particularly terrible, according to Professor Khanna.
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Rajiv Khanna (left) says the vaccine has produced a strong immune response during mouse trials.[/caption]
Miff Ward, a woman from Brisbane, had never heard of CMV before she discovered she was afflicted during the pregnancy with her daughter Azaria, who was born deaf permanently.
For us, it was a very trying and emotional moment, Ms. Ward remarked.
It's remarkable that there is so little knowledge of a virus that affects unborn children so severely and is so widespread.
We were fortunate that the symptoms of CMV were not more severe given what can occur, but learning that a vaccine may be on the way excite me much.
Saliva and other bodily fluids are the main ways that CMV is transmitted.
Women who are expecting are advised to follow strict hygiene precautions, especially while changing diapers, wiping a child's nose, or coming into touch with urine.
When kissing kids, they shouldn't get saliva on their lips or share a toothbrush with them.
Even if the CMV vaccine proved effective, according to Professor Khanna, it would likely require years of human testing before it was made accessible to the general public.