THE Nipah virus, which kills at least half of the victims, remains one of the next pandemic threats in the world, an expert warned.
The inventor of the Oxford vaccine, Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, said there was no vaccine against the virus that causes brain swelling.
However, should it develop into a faster spread, as Covid has learned, it could be disastrous.
Dame Sarah said, “Something that everyone is very much aware of now is how SARS-CoV-2 has spread across the world.
“It has mutated, it has evolved and in the end we got the Delta version, which is very transferable.
“When we get a Delta variant [evolved to be more transmissible] of the Nipah virus, we suddenly have a highly transmissible virus with a death rate of 50 percent. “
During an event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Dame Sarah said her team is struggling to raise the money needed to develop vaccines against known diseases, but only for those that are emerging.
Before starting work on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in January last year, Dame Sarah said she had worked on vaccines against the Nipah virus, Lassa fever and Mers.
But their work has gone “backwards” since the pandemic.
Dame Sarah said, “We learned during the pandemic that we can do things faster, we can do things better, we want to apply these lessons, but we still have to provide the means to do so.
“We need stocks of vaccines against these pathogens that we already know about, because what will it be like when a major nipah outbreak suddenly starts and spreads across the world?
“We’ve known about it for years and we started making a vaccine five years ago, but we haven’t done it yet, it’s not finished yet.”
Nipah tops the list of ten priority diseases that the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as potential sources of future epidemics
The health authority said in 2018 “there is an urgent need for accelerated research and development for the Nipah virus”.
Scientists previously told The Sun Nipah that they “could absolutely be the cause of a new pandemic”.
The southern Indian state of Kerala had to stop a possible outbreak of the virus in September.
It came after a 12-year-old boy died of the disease, resulting in the isolation of hundreds of close contacts.
Two health workers who were caring for the boy were hospitalized.
Initially, the virus can cause a fever, headache, and respiratory symptoms before escalating into brain swelling and a coma.
According to the WHO, the outbreak was the fifth in India since 2001, and more in Southeast Asia.
Outbreaks usually occur when people catch Zipah from an animal, resulting in something called a zoonosis.
Cases have been attributed to contact with sick pigs or consumption of fruit contaminated with saliva or urine from infected bats.
There is potential for places like Cambodia, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Thailand to be at risk as there are known areas where bats live.