Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the leading cause of viral encephalitis worldwide. Annually it causes between 13,000 and 20,000 deaths mainly in South-East Asia. Vaccination programmes have drastically reduced the number of JEV cases however outbreaks do still occur. Recently G1 has overtaken G3 as the dominant genotype in most endemic countries and as all currently licensed vaccines are based on G3 it is necessary to evaluate the potential of emerging genotypes to break through current control measures.

This project seeks to generate a virus-like-particle (VLP) neutralisation assay in order to investigate the potential for emergent or divergent genotypes of JEV to infect vaccinated individuals. Using this assay, we will evaluate the ability of vaccinee sera to neutralise emergent genotypes as well as to introduce a variety of SNPs that have been shown to enhance virulence and investigate whether any combination of these are able to invalidate vaccine protection.

There is also concern that recombination between wild-type and live attenuated vaccine strains may occur in the vaccine setting which could result in rescue of the virulent potential of the attenuated virus. Evidence of this is being sought in silico using publicly available data and existing techniques.

These data will provide a clearer picture of the nature of JEV in endemic areas and whether the current strategy of vaccination is sufficient to prevent naturally acquired infection in the long term or if other strategies must now be considered.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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