11. September 2023 | Press releases:

Research starts on West Nile fever TU Braunschweig develops therapeutic antibodies and vaccines against West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and is increasingly found in Europe—not least as a result of global warming. Infection with the West Nile virus leads to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in about one in 100 infected persons, of which about half of the patients suffer from late effects and around 10 percent of the patients die. So far, there is neither a specific therapy nor a vaccine against West Nile virus. TU Braunschweig will work together with partners in Spain, France and Denmark on new therapies and vaccines against this virus as part of an EU Horizon 2020 project.

West Nile fever is a disease caused by the West Nile virus. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes between birds. However, transmission to mammals such as horses and humans also occurs. Infection with this virus is asymptomatic in most people, but 20 percent of those infected develop flu-like symptoms. This is called West Nile fever. If the virus reaches the brain, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) occurs. Around 10 percent of patients die from this and 50 percent of patients suffer permanent damage. Older and immunosuppressed people have a higher risk of the viruses migrating into the brain (neuroinvasion) and thus a severe course of the disease.

So far, treatment has only been symptomatic. There is no specific therapy against West Nile fever and no vaccine against the virus.

The EU project “Limiting West Nile Virus impact by novel vaccines and therapeutics approaches” has identified two goals: On the one hand, the scientists will work on a vaccine against the virus to prevent the infection. Secondly, they will develop therapeutic antibodies to treat West Nile fever in order to combat the disease. This project is being carried out with partners in Barcelona, Montepellier and Copenhagen. The consortium is led by Dr Jorge Carrillo Molina from the Fundacio Privada Institut de Recerca de la Sida-Caixa (IrsiCaixa) in Barcelona.

Dr Maren Schubert from Technische Universität Braunschweig is leading a work package and is responsible for the production of virus-like particles (VLPs) in the development of the vaccine:

“I am pleased that we will be able to use our VLP technology in vaccine research in addition to its use in antibody development. Furthermore, this is also a step in the field of pandemic prevention, keyword ‘Pandemic Prepardness’.”

“In recent years, we have successfully developed human antibodies for the diagnosis and therapy of infectious diseases. Especially with viruses, e.g. SARS-CoV-2, Ebola-Sudan virus, Marburg virus or Western equine encephalitis virus, and with toxins, e.g. diphtheria or botulinum toxins, we have been able to achieve very notable successes internationally. I am thrilled that we can also apply our experience and know-how to West Nile viruses,” says Prof. Dr. Michael Hust, who is also leading the development of the therapeutic antibodies in this EU consortium.


Jaron, M., Lehky, M., Zarà, M., Zaydowicz, C.N., Lak, A., Ballmann, R., Heine, P.A., Wenzel, E.V., Schneider, K.-T., Bertoglio, F., Kempter,  S., Köster, R.W., Barbieri, S.S., Van den Heuvel, J., Hust, M., Dübel, S., & Schubert, M. (2022). Baculovirus-Free SARS-CoV-2 Virus Like Particle Production in Insect Cells for Rapid Neutralization Assessment. Viruses 14: 2087