As the Zika epidemic rages on, scientists are racing to develop vaccines that could quell outbreaks and prevent infections in humans. Now, a group of researchers is making progress toward this goal after three vaccines warded off Zika in primates.
Scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the University of São Paulo showed that three vaccine candidates completely protected rhesus monkeys from Zika. The team published their findings this week in the journal Science.
The results could lay the foundation for a Zika vaccine for humans. Human trials of the vaccines won’t begin until 2017, but the “consistent and robust protection against Zika virus in both rodents and primates fuels our optimism about the development of a safe and effective Zika vaccine for humans,” study coauthor Dan Barouch of Beth Israel Deaconess said in a statement.
The jabs work by spurring the immune system to shore up defenses against the virus. Scientists ran two experiments with the vaccines to test the technology in monkeys.
One vaccine contained a whole, killed Zika virus. The second vaccine had only the virus’ DNA, and a third, next-gen jab contained Zika DNA that could latch onto a benign virus and inject Zika genes into monkeys’ cells. All three vaccines were effective with no serious side effects, the researchers said.
Next up, the candidates will go to Phase I clinical trials for human testing. If all goes swimmingly, the team will launch large clinical trials by 2017 with results before the end of 2018, Vocativ reports.
Meanwhile, other scientists are developing vaccines to prevent Zika and microcephaly, a serious complication that causes small head size in infants born to mothers with the virus. The NIH this week said that it would run an early-stage study of an investigational DNA vaccine for Zika at three study sites in the U.S.
“A safe and effective vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection and the devastating birth defects it causes is a public health imperative,” NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said in a statement.
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