West Nile Virus vaccine under development at Okla. University
Some new research looks to make the growing number of West Nile virus cases a problem of the past. The vaccine has a long way to go, but early tests do look promising.
Inside the labs at the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, researchers are making progress as they develop a vaccination that could save lives.
"They are very promising, so we think we have a good candidate vaccine," Dr. James Papin said.
Dr. James Papin and other O.U. researchers are able to isolate strains of the West Nile Virus. They then use a chemical which "inactivates" it—basically rendering the virus harmless.
"We know that we can do it, and we know through lab models that it can actually -- looks like it can protect against infection," Dr. Papin said.
"It looks very promising, and obviously, it could be very beneficial if it were developed," said Dr. Robert Floyd, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Dr. Floyd with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation originally developed the technique now being used to find a vaccine. The researchers use a wavelength of light and the chemical Methlyene blue. Dr. Floyd used this same combination when conducted AIDS research in the 1990s.
"The way that this drug interacts with the virus and in the presence of light, it kills the virus," Dr. Floyd said.
Researchers are now in the process of developing the actual vaccine, which would then be followed by years of testing before it ever hit the market. Of course, funding is always an issue, but with the recent spike in West Nile Virus cases, O.U. is hoping the development of this vaccination will be a top priority.
"Now that we see this pattern emerging, there is going to be more interest in developing a vaccine in order to keep the disease out of the human population," Dr. Papin said.
Another West Nile vaccine is already going through clinical trials. Researchers at Oklahoma University hope to develop one that is just as effective and cheaper to produce.