Can Zika Be Prevented? Vaccine Trials Yield Positive Results

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The scientific community is abuzz with the recent discovery of an experimental dengue vaccine that shows promise against Zika virus, with very encouraging results that larger clinical trials are already being conducted in Brazil.

In a study recently published by the Science Translational Medicine, the initial test involved 41 volunteers that were given the test vaccine, a placebo named TV003 that was developed jointly by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The Zika virus is transmitted to humans by the same mosquito species that carries the deadly dengue virus – the aedis aegypti.

“Since dengue belongs to the same family as the Zika virus, the methods used to develop TV003 would be applicable to the Zika vaccine,” according to Dr. Anna P. Durbin, a researcher from the John Hopkins Bloomberg Public School of Health that is taking the lead for the TV003 testing.

“Dengue is unique and if (tests are) not done right, you can do more harm than good,” Dr. Durbin said.

The effects of the vaccine were very encouraging, researchers claimed, after the volunteers who were administered with the placebo only developed mild disease symptoms – with the infecting microbe analyzed as very weak that it could not cause the test subjects to become dangerously ill.

The results came to light six months after the test subjects became deliberately infected or ‘challenged’ with a strain of genetically modified dengue virus from Tonga and no other replicating virus was found in the blood samples of 21 test subjects who were vaccinated.

The dengue virus was positive in the blood of all 21 vaccinated with the TV003 and displayed symptoms of infection like rashes and low white blood cell levels or platelets.

The Zika virus recently gained notoriety after it was highly suspected to have a debilitating effect on pregnant women giving birth to babies with microcephaly or shrunken heads, but were less likely damaging to children and adults with symptoms ranging from rashes to fever.

The World Health Organization, early this year, released a bulletin warning about the further spread of the Zika virus, claiming that there is still no known cure for the disease.

The virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes also carrying the dengue virus with symptoms ranging fever, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, conjunctivitis, headache and pain behind the eyes.

Primary prevention measures are to reduce or eliminate breeding grounds for the aedis aegypti mosquito by using insect repellants or installing insect screens around the house, as well as removing any possible water-filled habitats that sustain the mosquito larvae.

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