EU watchdog green lights first vaccine against Chikungunya

Europe’s medicines watchdog Friday gave the thumbs up for the continent’s first vaccine against the mosquito-born Chikungunya virus, warning climate change could boost spread of the disease.

Chikungunya, also called CHIK fever, is an illness similar to Dengue or Zika, and causes high fever and severe joint pain which is often debilitating and varies in duration.

Symptoms also included joint swelling, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash, the European Medicines Agency said.

The EMA has granted marketing authorisation, which is the last step before the vaccine is granted permission for use by the European Commission.

Made by Valneva Austria, the Ixchiq vaccine is a single-dose powder or injection which triggers the production of neutralising antibodies 28 days after being given to people over 18.

The vaccine lasts for up to six months after vaccination.

CHIKV, named after the virus that causes the disease, “affects people mostly in the tropics and subtropics and the majority of countries reporting high numbers of the disease… are located in Central and South America,” the EMA said.

“Chikungunya is not endemic to Europe,” with most patients affected during travel outside the continent,” the Amsterdam-based agency added.

But it warned “there had been sporadic incidents of onward transmission by infected travellers after their return, mainly in southern Europe.”

Spread of the mosquito that carries the CHIKV virus “due to climate change could lead to cases of Chikungunya in regions so far spared,” the EMA said.

Currently there is no licenced treatment for Chikungunya, which means “to become contorted” in the Kimakonde language, spoken in Tanzania and Mozambique.

CHIKV was first identified in Tanzania in 1952 and has now been spotted in 110 countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe, the World Health Organisation said.

Brazil was currently experiencing outbreaks of Chikungunya in a number of regions, reporting over 160,000 cases in the first quarter of 2024, the EMA added.

“The rise in cases of vector-borne diseases transmitted through mosquitos such as Chikungunya is a clear example of the impact of climate change on health,” it added.

SOURCEAFP News
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