A clinical trial of a new investigational vaccine designed to protect against West Nile Virus infection will be sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The experimental vaccine was discovered and developed by scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland. The scientists were funded with a $7.2 million grant from NIAID, awarded in 2009. The new vaccine is being tested in a Phase 1 clinical trial at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, one of NIAID's Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs).
Most commonly spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes, West Nile Virus (WNV) infection is typically a seasonal epidemic in the United States that begins in late spring or early summer and continues into the fall. Last year, 2,205 cases of WNV disease and 97 related deaths were reported in the United States. The majority of people infected with WNV will show no symptoms. Roughly 1 in 5 people who are infected will display relatively mild symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and vomiting. Only about 1 in 150 people infected with WNV will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis. Most people with WNV disease recover completely, but the elderly and other immunocompromised individuals are at higher risk for long-term side effects or death resulting from infection. From 1999 to 2014, a total of 41,762 cases of WNV disease have been confirmed in the United States, including 1,765 deaths. Although an effective veterinary vaccine against WNV is available, no human vaccine has been approved for commercial use.