For now the Zika virus does not seem to be a major public health concern. It must be kept in mind, however, that there is little reason to believe that the Zika virus has disappeared for good. In any case, when compared to last years efforts, finding a Zika vaccine does not seem to be a priority for public health and medical experts. Dengue fever is a different story, as this mosquito-borne disease is only infecting more people with each passing year. In the coming years, dengue fever could become a major threat to the American populace. Therefore, developing a vaccine for dengue fever is of the utmost importance to public health. Amazingly, scientists at the University of Southampton believe that their research into the development of a hepatitis C vaccine has led them to a method of curing multiple diseases, including dengue fever and the Zika virus.
According to the World Health Organization two and a half billion people around the world are currently at risk of becoming infected with dengue fever. The mosquito-borne disease has become significantly more prevalent during the last few decades, and it is showing no signs of slowing. The WHO estimates that there are between fifty and one hundred million cases of dengue fever around the world.
Researchers have recently discovered how natural killer cells (NK Cells) in our immune systems respond to proteins that make up a part of the hepatitis C virus. These viral proteins are referred to as NS3 helicase proteins, and they control how the Hepatitis C virus functions. Those who suffer from hepatitis C have NK Cells that cannot fight-off these NS3 proteins. However, after genetic testing was conducted, it was found that a receptor called KIR2DS2 can target viral NS3 proteins. Once these proteins are targeted by the KIR2DS2 receptors, the immune system is then able to use its NK Cells to attack and kill the hepatitis C virus. Scientists see no reason why KIR2DS2 receptors cannot target NS3 proteins in other viruses. For example, the Zika virus and dengue fever both contain helicase proteins that could be targeted by KIR2DS2 receptors. The researchers believe that new vaccines could be created that would allow viral NS3 proteins to be targeted and killed by our natural killer immune cells.
Do you think that scientists from the past were just as confident as they are today about the successful development of vaccines that ultimately failed? Or does history show us enough successful vaccines to justify becoming excited about modern vaccine developments, such as the one described in this blog?