If we've learned anything from the past year, it is that we need to respond quickly to new viruses that spread from animals to humans. The usutu virus is an example. Still unknown to most people, but experts have been keeping an eye on the virus for a number of years.
The usutu virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and spreads mainly among birds. For a few years now, the usutu virus has caused a lot of trouble in the European blackbird population. Humans can also catch the infection when stung by infected mosquitoes. So far only 22 infections in humans have been described. The clinical symptoms of a usutu infection are very similar to those of the West Nile virus and range from mild general flu-like symptoms to severe neurological complications.
Usutuvirus is similar to West Nile virus
Due to the strong resemblance between the usutu virus and the west nile virus, and the dramatic consequences of the west nile virus spread across the US at the end of the last century, scientists are already preparing for the usutu virus.
Preparatory work usutu vaccine
In collaboration with the University of Hamburg, we created a first vaccine candidate. We had bacteria create a piece of protein from the usutu virus. We then tested whether the protein could work as a vaccine using various biochemical techniques. The next step was to investigate whether the protein actually induces an immune response. For this, we vaccinated two rabbits and examined their blood for the presence of antibodies. In vitro tests showed that the antibodies generated were able to neutralize the virus.
With this research we are taking the first step towards an effective vaccine against the usutu virus.
Want to know more? You can read the full article with all technical details here.