What happens when you prick your finger with the vaccine virus: even the best known and safest viruses can play it on us

In December 2018, a 26-year-old worker punctured a finger with the smallpox-related virus while inoculating it with a group of mice in a San Diego laboratory. It was the vaccine virus (VACV), a well-known microorganism, which they thought should not cause major problems to the patient.

In fact, a few months earlier, just as she began working with VACV, the laboratory offered her the smallpox vaccine (as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices), but she rejected it. He washed his finger with plenty of water for 15 minutes and went to the doctor hoping that nothing serious happened. However, the strain that had been inoculated was not a normal strain.

There are no harmless viruses


Doctors did not ask him to take any special precautions to avoid being the focus of an epidemic. But over the next two weeks, his health did not stop getting worse, and doctors and researchers began to become seriously concerned. Above all, because they were not able to isolate which strain of VACV the patient had and, therefore, they could not make an accurate prognosis.

Given this, they asked the North American Center for Disease Control to use 'tecovirimat', the first and only antiviral for the treatment of smallpox that had just been approved by the FDA in June of that same year as part of investigations in US biodefense. . Finally, 14 days after the puncture, the girl began to recover from the most severe symptoms.

The finger, however, followed a much slower recovery. The vaccine virus is one of the most important viruses in human history. It is the virus that we use to kill smallpox thanks to its close resemblance. Furthermore, it is a well-known virus that is still used today as a vector for treatments such as cancer or for research into new vaccines.

The case, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that care must be taken with recombinant vaccine virus strains since "they may contain genetic inserts that have unknown effects." We must be vaccinated, come on. As much as we have studied them, there are viruses so elusive (like the flu) that one never knows 100% what they are facing.

Image | Yanmin Yang

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