AltSU postgraduate student Natalya Volkova works on a vaccine against Marburg virus

10 June 2020 Department of Information and Media Communications
Once again, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the high relevance of research on countering the spread of viruses and viral infections. One of these is the Marburg virus, which is the aim for the development of a prophylactic vaccine in the thesis of the postgraduate student of the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical and Pharmaceutical Technologies of Altai State University, Natalia Volkova.

The Marburgvirus (MARV) causes Marburg fever (MF) in humans and primates, a severe disease with a high level of contagiousness and mortality (from 20 to 70%). The National Institute of Allergy Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the USA, has identified MARV as a priority pathogen that poses a high risk to national security and public health.

Since the discovery of MARV in 1967, this pathogen has caused death toll of more than 500 people. It cannot be certainly compared to the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic or Africa's largest outbreak of Ebola in 2014. However, no one can guarantee that the Marburg virus will not be the cause of a larger outbreak in the future. According to modern concepts, the bats of the species Rousettus aegyptiacus (fruit bat) are a natural reservoir of the virus. MARV can be transmitted from person to person through contact with body fluids.

The absence of prophylactic vaccines and therapeutic drugs against Marburg fever is the main problem faced by doctors in epidemic foci and scientists involved in the study of the etiological agent of this disease.

Obtaining vaccines against MARV on the basis of an inactivated pathogen has not been successful yet. Currently, work is underway to obtain prophylactic drugs against MARV using biotechnological methods based on replicons of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus, modified vaccinia virus, adenovirus vectors, virus-like particles and DNA constructs. DNA vaccines are of particular interest because they are cheaper to develop, simple to construct, and can be quickly prepared in response to an epidemic threat.

“The aim of our research, which will be formalized in the dissertation, is  the development of a DNA immunogen that provides protection against MARV, as the basis for the development of a preventive DNA vaccine. Using genetic engineering manipulations, the pVAKS-GPVM DNA immunogen was created containing the gene encoding the Marburg virus glycoprotein (GP)” said Natalya Volkova.

The young scientist added that the obtained DNA immunogen is capable of inducing the production of antibodies specific for GP of the Marburg virus with neutralizing activity during intramuscular immunization.

Tests on immunization of guinea pigs showed 100% protection against infection with a lethal dose of MARV.

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