Dan Stinchcomb, a researcher at the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, gave his seminar on the “Development of Vaccines for Mosquito-borne Tropical Diseases”. Although the thought of tropical disease seems irrelevant to those living in Fairbanks, global warming makes the idea of Alaskan and tropical-type mosquitoes interacting a very real possibility.
The tropical diseases Dan Stinchcomb discussed are terrible. The first, Dengue fever, threatens about half of the world’s population. It causes severe bone and muscular pain. Fortunately, extensive efforts are being made to find a safe and effective vaccine readily available to suffering areas. One vaccine, already available for production and sale, is somewhat still ineffective at completely eliminating the disease. This is because a vaccine produced for the Dengue virus must protect from all four strains. If someone is exposed to one strain of the Dengue virus, they have a high likelihood of getting another type of the virus along with its debilitating effects. Dan Stinchcomb worked with Takeda on a TDV vaccine for this disease. This live-attenuated vaccine is still in the process of being approved, as making it through all of the phases and onto the market is an extensive project. A company interested in producing a vaccine must show safety of vaccine in each phase in order to make it to the next, however long that takes. Their goal is to show that the test subjects’ titers show tetravalent immune responses. So far the Takeda vaccine is seeing faster and broader immune responses than the Sanofi vaccine did.
He then went on to talk about a variety of other diseases and how the development of their diagnostic and therapeutic vaccines were progressing. The diseases he talked about was the West Nile, which is carried from bird to mosquito to bird and occasionally to a human (dead-end host), Chikungunya disease (very similar to the Dengue virus but it has higher morbidity and lower mortality), and the Zika virus. The Zika virus is somewhat recent but serious outbreak and disease that can cause Microcephaly and other Congenital Zika symptoms (CZS). They are working very hard to develop a vaccine before more cases of neurological birth defects are reported.
This talk pertained extensively to the Virus lecture we had; it was really interesting to see the power that such a small organism can have. It was also very cool to see and hear about the efforts being done to combat the effects of viruses.
One question I had was how could someone get involved in this career field? It sounds like a really interesting job!