The first of five stages of clinical trials for a Zika vaccine are being conducted by scientists in Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) Clinical Trial Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The Zika Purified Inactivated Virus (ZPIV) uses a tried-and-true vaccine strategy: inject a patient with a weakened version of a virus and have the body’s immune system deal with it. Another experimental vaccine was developed last August that used a DNA vaccine approach similar to the one developed for the West Nile Virus.
The vaccine was first tested on monkeys and was successful at making the body produce antibodies that neutralize the virus. Now, scientists at WRAIR are looking for 75 human volunteers to test the vaccine.
The Zika virus comes from a virus transmitted by mosquitos. It can cause mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headaches. These symptoms normally last two to seven days. The virus’s most impactful effects are the development of microcephaly in unborn children and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The virus has spread into the Americas, and some parts of Asia, Africa, and Oceana with a total of 4,128 reported cases in the US alone. That number jumps to 30,178 when US territories are included.
“We urgently need a safe and effective vaccine to protect people from Zika virus infection as the virus continues to spread and cause serious public health consequences, particularly for pregnant women and their babies,” Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director said.
If the vaccine proves to be promising, federal researchers hope to expand trials of it in countries where Zika is prevalent in early 2017.