An experimental DNA-based vaccine is proceeding to human trials after it successfully protected monkeys from the Zika virus.
The vaccine caused the primates to develop Zika antibodies. Based on these findings, scientists can begin clinical safety trials in healthy humans.
“When a vaccine is effective in a lower primate species, it is a good signal that it will be effective in humans,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a doctor at University of Pittsburgh, said in a press statement. “The NIH [National Institutes of Health] vaccine candidates have cleared an important hurdle, and we are awaiting results from phase 1 human studies.”
Army medical researchers announced in August a Zika virus vaccine was successfully tested on monkeys, and human trials are expected soon.
The vaccine fully protected infected monkeys from individual strains of Brazilian and Puerto Rican Zika virus and had no adverse side-effects. The monkeys developed antibodies for the virus after only the first vaccine.
[dcquiz] 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.
There are currently 3,358 cases of Zika virus confirmed in the continental U.S., as well as another 19,777 in American territories, according to the CDC’s most recent update published Wednesday. These cases include 28 believed to be the result of sexual transmission, one that was the result of laboratory exposure, as well as the 43 cases acquired from local mosquitoes mostly in Florida. The vast majority of the cases were from people who traveled to a Zika-affected countries, such as Brazil.
Zika virus infections in pregnant women are 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.
Generally the Zika virus creates clumps of calcium around blood vessels in the infant’s brain, which prevents parts of the brain from forming normally, and physically blocks or destroys connections to other areas of the brain. Zika tends to target the cerebellum and the basal ganglia, inhibiting movement, balance, speech and emotion.
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.
The Zika virus is present in 50 countries and territories across the globe, according to the World Health Organization. Zika virus is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also spread several other dangerous tropical diseases. Mosquitoes kill more people than humans kill, and are the most deadly animals on the planet.
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