Currently there are no vaccines available in the market for preventing Chikungunya disease. However scientists all over the world are conducting experiments to develop a vaccine for Chikungunya virus. A number of experimental vaccines were found to be effective in monkeys and mice.
There has been a lot of interest in finding a vaccine for the virus ever since a outbreak on the island of La Reunion infected over 250,000 people killing over 250 of them.
Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Texas branch of Purdue University have developed a working vaccine for Chikungunya. It was successfully tested on monkeys. The next step for this vaccine is human testing. The development and the working of this vaccine was explained in a paper published in the Nature Medicine journal.
The experimental Chikungunya vaccine contains noninfectious virus like particles coated with the same protein that enables Chikungunya virus to pass through cell walls. However the vaccine particles doesn't contain the proteins that Chikungunya uses for replication and hence is harmless. The vaccine looks like Chikungunya virus to the immune system which in turn produces antibodies against it. From the experiments on monkeys it was found that these antibodies can prevent Chikungunya infection.
To create virus like particles, scientists used genetic engineering to create proteins. These proteins produced harmless spherical substances resembling Chikungunya virus. Interestingly virus like proteins were used in vaccines for other virus infections such as hepatitis B and HPV. Monkeys were injected with the vaccine and then after 15 weeks they were injected with Chikungunya virus. It was found that the vaccine offered 100% projection from the disease.
The research group was headed by Dr. Gary Nabel and they are investigating whether the same approach would work against other viruses such as equine encephalitis and o'nyong-nyong virus.
Our take on Chikungunya Vaccines
In the case of Chikungunya, careful evaluation is required before any vaccination is recommended. Chikungunya is relatively a low risk infection and hence vaccine side effects must be compared with the actual risk for Chikungunya infection. Obviously in areas where the infection incidence is low and where mosquitoes bites are also low, probably there is no need for a vaccine. So when the Chikungunya vaccine becomes available, it is up to the individuals to take an informed decision.