The University of Pittsburgh recently announced the successful testing of two experimental Zika vaccines that each prevented the offspring of immunized female mice from being infected with the virus.
Each vaccine that was tested successfully produced an immune response to the virus that was transferred from the mother mouse to her pups. This success accomplishes an important goal for all human vaccines, particularly because of the severe side effects, including microcephalic and Guillan-Barre syndrome, that the Zika infection can cause.
Andrea Gambotto, an associate professor at the medical school and the senior author of the study, said that the development of the Zika vaccine will be used to move toward larger pre-clinical and human clinical trials. Plans are also in place to create a delivery format that will allow the product to be produced and distributed to hundreds of thousands of people.
Recently, Congress passed a bill allocating 1.1 billion dollars for Zika research. University of Pittsburgh researchers hope to use a portion of these funds to advance the vaccines by conducting human clinical trials in the next year.
The university’s focus in the study and testing of the Zika vaccine is to create one that can be given to a mother of an unborn child and protect the fetus against birth defects.
According to researchers, in the study with the mice, pups that were born to an immunized mother were all protected against the lethal challenge infection without weight loss or neurological symptoms. Of pups born to the mice immunized with the second virus, 50 percent were protected.
One of the vaccines was given via standard injection. The other was given through crystals, which were affixed to a patch, similar to a Band-Aid, in order to keep them in contact with the skin until they dissolved.
Each of the vaccines were created to generate an immune response against a protein located on the outer shell of the virus.
After the conclusion of the study, Researchers described these techniques as promising candidates for the prevention of the Zika disease.
Bites from a mosquito of the Aedes species is the main way the virus is transmitted, but sexual transmission is also possible. South American, Central American, and Caribbean nations are seeing extremely high levels of the infection. The state of Florida has also reported Zika infections, which are believed to have been contracted from local mosquitos. The virus has already spread to 50 different nations, and an astounding 6,400 cases have been reported in the United States and surrounding territories, according to the National Institute of Health.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is working on five different Zika vaccines, with a target launch date for the human clinical trial of August 2.
Once a vaccine is developed, and after it is successfully tested on mice, it will be tested on monkeys. If it’s successful on monkeys, the next step of the phase is for it to be tested on humans to determine if it is safe and effective enough to be presented to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.
Although the Zika vaccine seems to be on the fast track, it’s effectiveness on humans will not be clear until 2018. According to institute director Anthony S. Fauci, vaccines typically take seven to 10 years to be developed and approved.
Dr. Fauci says that the more success the university has testing out the Zika vaccine and getting favorable results, the better chance they have of developing a successful vaccine. He’s confident that, according to history, there should be an effective vaccine that prevents Zika in the near future.
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