QCOSTARICA – The development of a safe and effective vaccine against the Zika virus against humans may be successful, with results of a major study published in the international weekly journal of science, Nature. The researchers said, based on their findings, a Zika vaccine for humans “will likely be readily achievable”.
Researchers tested two trial vaccines, a DNA vaccine and an inactivated virus vaccine, in mice.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of Zika virus vaccine protection in an animal model,” Dr. Dan Barouch from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School said.
According to Dr. Barouch said human clinical trials of the vaccine should start as soon as possible. The vaccinated animals showed no evidence of active virus after being infected with the Zika virus and both vaccines were safe as well as effective.
“And the protection was striking. The protection was complete,” he said. “All of the mice that received the vaccine showed no virus in the bloodstream after challenge, whereas all the mice that did not receive the vaccines became infected and had high levels of virus in the bloodstream. One of the important points is that the protection could be achieved by a single immunization.”
The Zika virus is a flavivirus that is responsible for an unprecedented current epidemic in Brazil and the Americas. Zika has been associated with fetal microcephaly, intrauterine growth restriction, and other birth defects in both humans and mice.
In February, the World Health Organization declared the Zika epidemic a global public health emergency. Since then, drugmakers have been working to create vaccines that could protect against it.
Nelson Michael, director of the military HIV program at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, is co-author of the Nature article.
He says the vaccines are in production now, and researchers hope to begin human trials in October.
“I would say, at this point, no one is really in a position to say if it’s going to jump ahead of expanded safety studies. But I can tell you it’s going to move very quickly,” he said.
While pregnant women are most at risk from Zika, Michael says the initial trials will begin with healthy women who could become pregnant.
If enough people are vaccinated, he added, that could extend protection to pregnant women, who might not need the vaccine.
Both vaccines could be available as early as next year.
In Costa Rica, according to the Ministry of Health, as of last week the number of peope with the virus has grown to 127 cases. Read more Zika Outbreak Worsens In Jacó