University researchers develop vaccine for severe fever with SFTS infection

Lee Han-soo  Published 2019.08.29  17:46  Updated 2019.08.29 17:55


A research team composed of two local universities -- Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Chungbuk National University College of Medicine (CNUCM) -- has developed a vaccine for severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) virus infection.

Professors Park Soo-young (left) and Choi Young-ki

SFTS is a contagious disease caused by virus-infected wild ticks. The disease leads to severe fever after six to 14 days of incubation and causes various illnesses, including platelet and white blood cell reduction, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, SFTS can also lead to death. In Korea, the number of SFTS patients has been steadily increasing every year since the nation saw its first patient in 2013. Currently, there are no vaccines that treat the disease.

The team, led by Professors Park Soo-young of KAIST and Choi Young-ki of CNUCM, designed the vaccine antigen by deriving a common sequence from the gene sequences of 31 different SFTS viruses. It then used Geneone Life Science’s technology to make a DNA vaccine. Unlike conventional vaccines, DNA vaccines have the advantage of using only genes to induce a safe and broad immune response.

The researchers found that the vaccine suppressed infection in the infected animal model and saw none of the usual symptoms, such as digestive symptoms, platelet, and leukocyte reduction.

“The vaccine is the first drug that would perfectly protect against SFTS virus infection and demonstrated complete protection against a non-mouse model, which portrayed the same infection route as a human model,” Professor Park said.

Professor Choi said, “The research result of the development of the SFTS vaccine is significant as we have secured a technological advantage for the development of SFTS vaccines worldwide.”

The team plans to continue its research to commercialize the SFTS virus vaccine, Choi added.

The result of the research was published in the Aug. 23 online edition of the Nature Communications.

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