The goal of the international group project is to develop an especially efficient vaccine and an improved system of effectively detecting the pathogen. In addition, a scientific network is being established to standardize collection and testing methods of biological data and to generate a realistic picture of the virus threat.
A reliable and specific diagnostic system is mandatory to fight infectious diseases. Establishing a definite and concise pathogen detection method is a special challenge in the case of WNV. This is because antibodies that are formed against the virus often cross-react with related viruses (e.g. yellow or dengue fever viruses). Thus, a very specific pathogen detection method has to be developed. The use of recombinant-protein-technology and optimized epitope-mapping-methods takes this into account. The aim is that the developed diagnostics will have a very low error rate and will be reliable, fast, and globally applicable.
Aside from the diagnostics that will be developed to specifically detect the virus, a vaccine against infection is the most important tool to prevent further spread of infectious disease. In the project a vaccine will be developed that is both stable and offers long-term protection. Furthermore, it should have as few side effects as possible. Modern vaccine technology such as DNA-vaccination and subunit-vaccines will be used.
DNA-vaccines have certain gene sequences of the pathogen. After vaccination, patients themselves will produce the antigens coded for in the vaccine and present them to their immune system. A symptom-free infection will be simulated in the host and a corresponding immune response will be induced that permanently protects the person. This vaccine approach combines the advantages of standard vaccination strategies – the efficacy of live vaccines with the safety of the inactivated vaccine. Another advantage of this vaccine technology is its flexible adaptation to different pathogen variants.
Aside from the development of new diagnostics and vaccination procedures, the project will establish a scientific information network. In the future the network will collect and geographically locate all immunological and biological data. Thus, a map develops that shows not only the WNV cases, but also the individual parameters that are involved.
The global data collection is necessary to follow the development of the WNV pandemic and to adapt diagnostics and vaccines to regional differences. The spread of the pathogen can only be successfully controlled in this way.