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Experimental Zika Vaccine Successfully Moves To Broader Testing

1 April 2017, 7:31 am EDT By Anu Passary Tech Times
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2016 in 60 seconds

Researchers, scientists, and medical officials have been trying to bring the Zika virus epidemic under control for some time. The mosquito-borne virus negatively impacts pregnant women and unborn children.

To curb the effects of the virus, the trial of an experimental Zika vaccine was successfully moved to a broader spectrum of testing — phase 2. Earlier this week, in Houston, the first clinical volunteer for this trial received a test dose of this vaccine.

Zika Vaccine Test Trial Gains Momentum

Health officials in the United States formally started the enrollment process for volunteers, in a bid to conduct testing of the experimental Zika vaccine. Houston's Baylor College of Medicine hosted the first volunteer to receive the test shot.

The trial dubbed VRC 705, is a two-fold study and will cost $100 million. Come June, researchers are optimistic of registering at least 2,490 volunteers from Puerto Rico, Texas, and Florida. The National Institutes of Health will also be taking in volunteers from Panama, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico — the most at-risk countries from the Zika virus.

Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, have developed the Zika vaccine. The safety tests of this experimental vaccine started in the summer of 2016. With encouraging results from the safety tests, scientists begun the next phase of the examination, which will be conducted in two tiers.

Scientists and health officials are now on a lookout for 90 non-pregnant, healthy female and male volunteers to establish the correct dosage of the vaccine. Researchers also hope to assess the safety of the vaccine further, along with its capability to trigger an immune response within the human body.

The trial test will take place over a span of 12 weeks and participants will either receive a high dose of the vaccine, or standard dosage. They will be observed for two years to record any symptoms of Zika virus, or any adverse effects of the vaccine.

This vaccine is one of the first experimental Zika vaccines to move forward toward a wider test trial.

"We are pleased to have advanced rapidly one of NIAID's experimental Zika vaccines into this next stage of testing in volunteers. We expect this study will yield valuable insight into the vaccine's safety and ability to prevent disease caused by Zika infection. A safe and effective Zika vaccine is urgently needed to prevent the often-devastating birth defects that can result from Zika virus infection during pregnancy," said Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID.

How Was The Zika Vaccine Created?

The vaccine is one of a kind as it has been created using the DNA of a Zika virus. Usually, vaccines are made from a weakened or dead virus. This is done to ensure that the immune system recognizes the infection and fights against it.

The DNA of the virus includes genes taken from the Zika proteins. This placebo, when injected, triggers the immune system of our body to release T-cells and antibodies to fight the virus.

Why Zika Prevention Is Necessary

Zika virus is known to create birth defects in newborn children, if the mother is infected. As of March 14, 2017, this sexually-transmitted virus affected 1,228 pregnant women in the United States, with 54 newborns having birth defects.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus has also resulted in stillbirths, miscarriages, and abortions.

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