Study of deadly Australian Japanese Encephalitis Virus strain prompts push for new vaccine

QIMR Berghofer

Published online in the newly established Nature Publishing Journal (npj) Viruses, the research found that miniature human brain organoids were destroyed when infected with the virus.

The research also looked at blood samples from individuals vaccinated against JEV, and found that while it did offer protection against the new Australian strain, more work was needed to tailor a new vaccine to the recent Australian outbreak strain.

“The more a virus mutates and the more it deviates from established vaccine targets, the less optimal the vaccine responses are likely to be. This is why COVID-19 and influenza vaccines are continuously updated, a process that may be needed for JEV,” Dr Rawle said.

“We don’t have targeted treatments for JEV, with brain infections particularly difficult to treat, so a vaccine would be a key defence against a disease with potentially fatal consequences.”

Dr Rawle said the findings highlighted the urgent need for vigilance and preparedness in combating mosquito-borne diseases. Highlighting this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the Global Arbovirus Initiative in 2022, raising the global alarm on the increased risks of arboviral epidemics, and the potential for future arboviral pandemics.

QIMR Berghofer researchers are recognised as leaders in the field of vaccine development against mosquito-borne viruses after recently being invited to publish an up-to-date review of global efforts by the prestigious journal, Nature Reviews Immunology.

The team is now using the recent tools they’ve developed to test new vaccines against Japa-nese encephalitis virus, thanks to a five-year Medical Research Future Fund grant for mRNA vaccine development and a generous donation from the Brazil Family Foundation.

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