REF Case study: Faculty of Health & Life Sciences

Clinical Medicine: Control of Japanese Encephalitis

Globally, the most important cause of encephalitis (inflammation and swelling of the brain) is the mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), which causes an estimated 70,000 cases annually across Asia. The virus is found in pigs and wading birds and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. It attacks the brain causing inflammation and swelling, resulting in seizures, brain damage, and in severe cases, death.

Approximately four billion people live in areas at risk of Japanese encephalitis. Although vaccines were developed years ago, their uptake in Asian countries has been hampered through many factors, including lack of disease burden data, a consequence of poor surveillance, complicated diagnostics, and insufficient knowledge about disease outcomes.

Research at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health has addressed each of these areas in turn, to overcome the roadblocks in vaccine implementation. To strengthen surveillance, the team demonstrated the wide range of clinical presentations the virus can cause. Through its leading role on all the relevant WHO committees groups and meetings, the University has ensured that its research findings are translated through to impact by supporting new vaccination programmes across Asia.

By 2013, through the collective efforts of the regional Governments, WHO, PATH, the Liverpool Team, and other partners, vaccination had begun in 11 new countries, and the vaccine had reached more than 200 million people. The public health benefits, derived from a health economic modelling study, are estimated to be up to 854,000 cases and 214,000 deaths avoided, with an associated estimated saving across Asia of US$ 1.024 billion.