April 28, 2006

A post-exposure vaccine for Marburg virus that gave complete protection to experimental Rhesus macaques could be useful for humans as well, according to a study published in the British journal The Lancet. Marburg virus is a filovirus that causes an often-fatal hemorrhagic disease. There is no vaccine or therapy currently approved for humans, and treatment consists of intensive supportive care. The virus has could be used as a potential bioweapon, noted the study, which was conducted by researchers from Canada's Public Health Agency and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The vaccine uses attenuated recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus -- an animal pathogen -- combined with glycoproteins from one strain of Marburg virus.

In the study, the researchers gave eight macaques a lethal dose of the virus, injected intramuscularly. Within 20 or 30 minutes, five of the animals were given the vaccine, while the other three were given a similar vaccine engineered to express proteins from the Ebola virus. Three of the five animals treated with the Marburg vaccine developed a fever by day six, but their body temperatures returned to normal by day 10. All five survived.

"These results evidently have important clinical implications and offer a new treatment approach for Marburg virus hemorrhagic fever and perhaps for other viral hemorrhagic fevers," the study concluded.