European regulator approves first Chikungunya vaccine

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 14.06.2024

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31 May 2024, 17:27

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the continent's first vaccine against the Chikungunya virus, warning that climate change could contribute to the spread of the disease.

Chikungunya, also called CHIK fever, is a disease similar to dengue or Zika that causes high fever and severe joint pain that is often debilitating and can vary in duration.

Symptoms also include joint swelling, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash, the EMA said.

EMA has granted marketing authorization, which is the final step before the vaccine is authorized for use by the European Commission.

Developed by Valneva Austria, the Ixchiq vaccine is a powder or injection that stimulates the production of neutralizing antibodies 28 days after administration to people over 18 years of age.

The effect of the vaccine lasts up to six months after vaccination.

CHIKV, named after the virus that causes the disease, "mainly affects people in the tropics and subtropics, and most countries reporting high numbers of cases... Are in Central and South America," the EMA said. p>

"Chikungunya is not endemic in Europe," most patients become infected during travel outside the continent, the Amsterdam-based agency added.

But the agency warned that "there have been cases of transmission of the virus from infected travelers upon their return, mainly in southern Europe."

The spread of mosquitoes carrying the CHIKV virus "due to climate change could lead to cases of Chikungunya in regions that were previously free of it," the EMA said.

There is currently no licensed treatment for Chikungunya, which means "to become twisted" in the Kimakonde language spoken in Tanzania and Mozambique.

CHIKV was first identified in Tanzania in 1952 and has since been reported in 110 countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe, the World Health Organization said.

Brazil is currently experiencing outbreaks of Chikungunya in several regions, with more than 160,000 cases reported in the first quarter of 2024, the EMA added.

“The rise in mosquito-borne diseases such as Chikungunya is a clear example of the health impacts of climate change,” the agency added.

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