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The Zika Vaccine Takes A Major Step Toward Success

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Army medical researchers announced Friday that a Zika virus vaccine was successfully tested on monkeys and human trials are expected soon.

“Results from both mouse and nonhuman primate testing are encouraging and support a decision to move forward with our U.S. government, industry and regulatory partners to advance our [Zika] vaccine candidate to human trials,” Army Col. Stephen Thomas, director of the Zika program at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), told Medical News Today. “It builds on technology WRAIR developed and successfully applied to other flavivirus vaccines. We hope that by leveraging a proven technology we increase our chances of developing a safe and effective Zika vaccine.”

The vaccine developed fully protected infected monkeys from individual strains of Brazilian and Puerto Rican Zika virus and had no adverse side-effects. After the first vaccination, the monkeys developed antibodies for the virus.

Based on these and previous results, the team believes their Zika vaccine could enter  clinical trials later this year. Despite the promise, there are years of testing and development work ahead before human patients could receive a protective shot from their doctor.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved clinical trials of an experimental vaccine for the Zika virus in late July.

Zika virus infections in pregnant women are directly linked to fetal deaths and devastating birth defects such as microcephaly, when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Laboratory studies also confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.

There have now been 12 confirmed cases of babies born with Zika-related microcephaly in America, and more than 400 pregnant women in the continental U.S. displaying evidence of Zika infection. Some babies with no immediate signs of problems have also been born in the U.S. to Zika-infected mothers.

There are currently 1,825 cases of Zika virus confirmed in the continental U.S., as well as another 5,525 in American territories, according to the CDC’s most recent update published Wednesday. These cases include 16 believed to be the result of sexual transmission, one that was the result of laboratory exposure, as well as the 6 cases acquired from local mosquitoes. The vast majority of the cases were from people who traveled to a Zika-prone country, such as Brazil.

The Zika virus is present in 50 countries and territories across the globe, according to the World Health Organization.

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