WRAIR has been researching flaviviruses, a family of viruses that includes yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, West Nile and Zika viruses, for over a century, beginning in the 1890s when Major Walter Reed helped prove that yellow fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Spread primarily by ticks and mosquitoes, these viruses can cause a wide range of illnesses manifesting in diverse symptoms.
WRAIR developed the technology which, through a cooperative research and development agreement, was transferred to a commercial company to achieve licensure of the Japanese encephalitis vaccine used by the DOD to protect troops deploying to areas at risk. Japanese encephalitis virus is an important vaccine-preventable cause of viral encephalitis in Asia with up to 70,000 clinical cases reported each year. WRAIR's contributions to the vaccine included developing the vaccine technology— purified inactivated virus vaccine, pilot bio-production, clinical studies, and additional field studies for final FDA approval in 2009.
WRAIR continues to leverage its expertise in flaviviruses to improve solutions for century-old infectious disease threats, like yellow fever, and to innovate new products to combat new and re-emerging pathogens like Zika virus.