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A University of Oxford study has administered a new vaccine against tick-borne virus Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) to volunteers for the first time. CCHF is on the World Health Organization's top priority watchlist for viruses that could cause a future pandemic, and yet no approved vaccines currently exist.

Launched on the 4th of August 2023, the clinical trial of the ChAdOx2 CCHF vaccine aims to confirm its safety and understand how individuals develop immunity following vaccination.

The study is led by Professor Teresa Lambe, Calleva Head of Vaccine Immunology in the Department of Paediatrics and a Professor of Vaccinology and Immunology at the Pandemic Sciences Institute. Prof Lambe co-designed the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and her team have been developing a vaccine against CCHF using similar technology for the last 5 years.

The vaccine is being administered to healthy volunteers ages 18 – 55 in the Oxfordshire area, with participants receiving two doses of the vaccine 12 weeks apart. Participants are being closely monitored for the next 12 months to understand how they respond to the vaccine and whether they make antibodies against the CCHF virus. If they do, this would be the first step in creating a new vaccine against CCHF and a milestone for pandemic preparedness.

Prof Lambe, said: ‘There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for CCHF, and yet sadly up to 40 per cent of people admitted to hospital with the disease will die. In the absence of a vaccine, the only way to reduce infection is to raise awareness of the risk factors and signs of the disease. This trial is an important step in our development of a vaccine, which we hope will offer a real-life solution to keep people safe from this deadly virus.’

CCHF is a life-threatening disease caused by a virus that is mainly spread by ticks. CCHF outbreaks are an ongoing threat to public health. The disease is fatal in up to 40 per cent of hospital-admitted cases, and it is difficult to prevent and treat as there are currently no approved treatments or vaccines.  Endemic in all of Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asia, CCHF is now spreading to other areas including parts of Europe. The World Health Organization estimates that about 3 billion people live in areas at risk of the disease. There is an urgent and ongoing need to develop vaccines against CCHF as it has the potential to lead to a future pandemic.

The ChAdOx2 CCHF vaccine is based on the ChAdOx2 vector – a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that has been genetically modified so that it is impossible for it to replicate in humans. It is similar to the technology used successfully in the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.