Galveston, Texas is home to The University of Texas Medical Branch’s Galveston National Laboratory (GNL), a world-class infectious disease research laboratory. It is also where Dr. Scott Weaver an expert in mosquito-borne diseases is the Scientific Director, and where he and his team have developed a candidate vaccine that may possibly protect against the emerging chikungunya virus.
Utilizing his expertise, Dr. Weaver and his collaborator, fellow infectious disease researcher Dr. Marc Lecuit of the Institute Pasteur in France, have published a summary of all the currently available data on the chikungunya virus. The study entitled, “Chikungunya virus and the global spread of a mosquito-borne disease,” was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
- Febrile disease: disease associated with a fever
- Arthralgia: pain in the joints
- Aedes aegypti mosquitoes: known to spread many infectious diseases, such as, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses
The Chikungunya virus is a mosquito-borne virus that causes an acute febrile illness that is typically accompanied by severe arthralgia. In late 2013, the first local chikungunya virus transmission in the Americas was reported in the Caribbean. Then subsequently in July 2014, a locally-acquired case of chikungunya was reported in the continental U.S. (Florida).
Due to the ease of international travel and the consequences of climate change, the likelihood of an increase in the number of locally-acquired and travel-related chikungunya cases in the U.S. is high. Therefore, it is important that healthcare providers and public health professionals have a thorough understanding of the virus and its currently available treatment options.
In an effort to provide this needed information, Drs. Weaver and Lecuit’s robust paper summarized the currently available data that would be of use to both physicians and public health workers by highlighting the following aspects of the disease:
- HISTORY AND ORIGINS OF CHIKUNGUNYA VIRUS
- EPIDEMIOLOGIC CHARACTERISTICS AND SPREAD
- CLINICAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- CONTROL OF THE SYMPTOMS AND SPREAD OF DISEASE
- THE FUTURE OF CHIKUNGUNYA AND RESEARCH PRIORITIES
In a press release about the paper, Dr. Weaver stated, “Chikungunya continues to be a major threat to public health around the world. Until there is a treatment or vaccine, the control of chikungunya fever will rely on mosquito reduction and limiting the contact between humans and the two virus-carrying mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.”
Follow this link and listen to Drs Weaver and Lecuit speak about Chikungunya: http://gvn.org/task-forces/task-force/
Within this state-of-the-art facility, an extraordinary group of scientists are engaged in efforts to translate research ideas into products aimed at controlling emerging infectious diseases and defending our society against bioterrorism. The GNL has been designed to serve as a national resource, and will complement and enhance UTMB’s decades of prominence in biomedical research — as well as provide a world renowned resource for training researchers in infectious diseases.
As one of two National Biocontainment Laboratories constructed with funding awarded in October 2003 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health (NIAID/NIH), the GNL provides much needed research space and specialized research capabilities to develop therapies, vaccines, and diagnostic tests for naturally occurring emerging diseases such as SARS, West Nile encephalitis and avian influenza — as well as for microbes that might be employed by terrorists. Products likely to emerge from research and investigations within the GNL include novel diagnostic assays, improved therapeutics and treatment models, and preventative measures such as vaccines.
The world-class infectious disease research programs of the University of Texas Medical Branch are breaking new ground in understanding the nature of infectious diseases, and are working to translate new research concepts into products aimed at controlling emerging infectious diseases and mitigating their effects on society. The programs of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity (IHII) are the hub of infectious disease research at UTMB. The IHII’s mission is to coordinate, facilitate and enhance the activities of UTMB’s research centers and programs that focus on advancing the fields of infection and immunity.
IHII programs and centers include the Galveston National Laboratory, the Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Center for Tropical Diseases, the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, the World Reference Center for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses, and the McLaughlin Endowment for Infection and Immunity.