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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/West Nile Vaccine

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth's Diane Toomey reports on progress in the development of a vaccine against the West Nile Virus.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: the story of a tribe who, some say, was hidden from civilization for thousands of years. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: Despite efforts to curb West Nile, thi s year the virus has spread to all but six states. So far, about 18-hundred people have become infected, usually with mild symptoms such as low grade fever and headache. But the disease has been fatal in a few, mostly elderly patients.

Now, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases say they are making progress in developing a vaccine against the West Nile Virus. To create it, scientists removed the outer proteins of a dengue virus and replaced them with the corresponding proteins from West Nile. They figured the resulting hybrid virus would be crippled to the point where it can't cause disease, but would trigger a strong immune response.

The vaccine was tested in a dozen rhesus monkeys. Even though the virus had only a weak ability to replicate itself in the monkey's blood, researchers found that all twelve animals developed high levels of antibodies. And when exposed to the West Nile virus, none of the monkeys became ill. Researchers plan to begin human trials of the vaccine by the end of year.

And that’s this week’s Environmental Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Radiohead “Meeting in the Aisle” Airbag Hog (1998) EMI Records LTD.]



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