Volunteers sought to test new mRNA vaccine for mpox

Volunteers in the UK are being sought to test a new mRNA vaccine for mpox, formerly known as monkeypox.

The vaccine trial – from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and pharmaceutical firm Moderna – will see whether the jab can offer good protection in people who have not been previously infected.

Mpox is passed on through close physical contact, including during sexual contact, kissing, cuddling or holding hands.

Symptoms include a high temperature, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, exhaustion, joint pain and a rash.

Scientists now hope to offer another choice in the form of an mRNA jab for mpox and smallpox.

Volunteers in the mPower Trial will be randomly selected to receive one of three dose levels of the vaccine, or a placebo.

The trial is recruiting people from sites across the UK and will be led by the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Rajeka Lazarus, national co-ordinating investigator for the new study, said: “Mpox is a global public health threat and more vaccines are urgently needed to prevent future outbreaks.

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we were overwhelmed with the generosity of volunteers who came forward to take part in a number of vaccine trials.

“Without them, the advances we’ve seen would not have been possible. It would be fantastic to see the same support for mpox research.”

Experts are hoping to recruit 175 volunteers to the study, who are aged 18 to 49 and who are in good health, with plans to complete enrolment in April.

Volunteers must not have been previously vaccinated for mpox or smallpox, or had a suspected or confirmed mpox infection.

In 2022, there was an outbreak of monkeypox, with the UK reporting some of the highest case numbers in Europe, mostly in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men.

Dr Matthew Hallsworth, NIHR director of strategic partnerships, said: “We’re really pleased that Moderna has chosen to run its mpox trial in the UK. This demonstrates our strength in clinical research.

“Our partnership with Moderna ensures UK research is at the cutting edge of new vaccine technologies, with the potential to protect against global health threats such as mpox and future pandemics.

“We hope that recruitment to this trial will be as successful as the Covid-19 vaccine trials that were run in the UK and we encourage the public to help out where they can – whether that’s by volunteering or encouraging others.”

Harun Tulunay, a 36-year-old sexual health advocate from London, suffered from the mpox virus in June 2022.

He ended up unable to eat or drink due to lesions in his throat. He was admitted to hospital and treated with an antiviral drug, which was originally developed for smallpox.

He said: “As a man living with HIV, I took part in Covid trials and other trials to help other people.

“People who will participate in this trial will be part of advancing research that will maybe change lives.

“Being a part of that is such a great feeling – I know that from my own experience.”

People can find out more at trials.modernatx.com/study/?id=mRNA-1769-P101

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