Institut Pasteur/ Inserm : Joint research on the Nipah virus

Press release

Two teams from the Institut Pasteur and Inserm, in co-operation with Malaysian researchers, have recently successfully tested a candidate vaccine against the Nipah Virus. This virus, still undiscovered in 1998, was responsible for the deaths of 105 people in Malaysia in 1999. It is expanding at an alarming speed in South-East Asia. Currently there is no treatment in the fight against this emerging virus. Advances in research allow us to hope that tools to prevent and cure this illness will be developed rapidly.



Press release
Paris, febuary 9, 2004



The Nipah virus, which takes its name from the village where it was identified for the first time in Malaysia, is normally found in certain species of fruit bats. It crossed the species boundary in 1998, when it first infected herds of pigs, followed by man. In humans, the disease starts as a influenza-like syndrome and may then develop into encephalitis and coma. It affected 256 persons in Malaysia in 1999, of whom 40% died. Traces of the presence of this virus were then detected in Bangladesh and the north of India in 2001 and 2003, and in Cambodia in 2002 (work carried out by a team from the Institut Pasteur in Cambodia). In view of this disturbing development, it is important to act fast in perfecting the tools to fight effectively against this virus.

Researchers from the teams led by Vincent Deubel of the Biology of Viral Emerging Infections Unit at the Institut Pasteur and by Fabian Wild of Inserm Unit 404, Immunity and Vaccination, developed vaccine vectors which enabled them to express the two glycoproteins responsible for the entry of the virus into the organism. These vectors were used to vaccinate hamsters, an animal model characterised by the same teams, which reproduces very similar lesions to those detected in humans.

The scientists showed that in these vaccinated animals the production of neutralising antibodies directed against the viral proteins prevented the development of the virus. No traces of the virus were found in the blood, and mortality in the animals was completely averted. Moreover, serum taken from previously immunised hamsters and then injected into control animals was also sufficient to prevent the proliferation of the Nipah virus.

These results allow us to look forward to the development of new vaccines capable of protecting human populations living in the regions at risk where the virus lies hidden. Furthermore, in view of the capacity of the serums to prevent the development of the virus, we have reason to hope that it will be possible to employ them in the future as a treatment for prevention or cure in individuals who have already developed the disease.


"Nipah Virus: Vaccination and Passive Protection Studies in a Hamster Model" Journal of Virology, January 2004
V. Guillaume (1) H. Contamin (2) P. Loth (2) M.-C. Georges-Courbot (2) A. Lefeuvre (2) P. Marianneau (2) K. B. Chua (3) S. K. Lam (3) R. Buckland (1) V. Deubel (2) and T. F. Wild (1)

(1) INSERM Unite 404, (2) UBIVE, Institut Pasteur, CERVI, IFR 128, Lyon, France, (3) University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

"A Golden Hamster Model for Human Acute Nipah Virus Infection" American Journal of Pathology, November 2003
K. Thong Wong (1), Isabelle Grosjean (2), Christine Brisson (3), Barissa Blanquier (4), Michelle Fevre-Montange (3), Arlette Bernard (3), Philippe Loth (2), Marie-Claude Georges-Courbot (2), Michelle Chevallier (5), Hideo Akaoka (3), Philippe Marianneau (2), Sai Kit Lam (1), T. Fabian Wild (4) and Vincent Deubel (2)

(1) Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; (2) Biology of Viral Emerging Infections Unit, Institut Pasteur, Mérieux-Pasteur Research Centre, Lyons, France; (3) INSERM U.433, Lyons, France; (4) INSERM U.404, Virology and Immunology Study and Research Centre, Lyons, France, and (5) Marcel Mérieux Laboratory, Lyons, France

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