Researchers at The University of Queensland have developed a new chimeric virus platform suitable for use in flavivirus vaccine and diagnostic applications. Flaviviruses are predominantly carried and transmitted by mosquitoes and often infect humans, causing widespread morbidity and mortality. Common clinically-relevant flavivirus diseases include Zika, dengue fever, West Nile fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis.

The new chimeric viruses are formed by splicing the genes that code for the specific antigenic elements of a vertebrate-infecting flavivirus (VIF) into the genome backbone of an insect-specific flavivirus (ISF). ISFs are specialised viruses that can only replicate and survive in mosquito cells, therefore forming chimeras based on the ISF genome prevents the constructs from replicating in vertebrate cells. ISF-VIF chimeras for West Nile Virus, dengue and Zika have been generated and shown to replicate in mosquito, but not vertebrate cell lines.

Several novel Australian ISFs have been identified and characterised, with selected ISFs demonstrating potential as high-performing chimeric backbones.