Zika Vaccine to Undergo Human Trials Soon
The Zika virus was discovered decades ago but mostly ignored. No wonder, since its outbreaks were limited to remote areas, and its effects were mild – a week-long fever with rash, nothing fancy. But when its effects on babies were discovered, it was promoted to a “major threat”. And it’s spreading further North, toward Europe and the US. This was the time when a Zika vaccine was finally proposed, roughly six months ago. And now the first human trials of the vaccine are set to start.
The new Zika vaccine was promising in animal trials
The first Zika vaccine is the result of a collaboration between Inovio Pharmaceuticals and GeneOne Life Science. The vaccine, called GLS-5700, has proven to be an effective way to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in pre-clinical (animal) trials. The companies expect it to behave equally well when used on humans, too – and it’s ready to start testing it.
To test the new vaccine’s safety, tolerability and immunogenicity, the companies will start clinical trials soon. They will select 40 healthy individuals for the phase I clinical trials that will start in a few weeks’ time.
The final product might not be ready for the 2016 Summer Olympics (Brazil is severely affected by the virus), though.
What is Zika?
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus fist isolated from an infected rhesus monkey in 1947 in the Zika Forest in Uganda. Human cases were described for the first time in 1952 when Zika antibodies were found in the blood of several individuals in the county. In the coming decades, the virus spread to several other African countries. The low number of cases and their isolated nature didn’t attract too much media attention, though.
A major outbreak of the Zika fever started in April 2015 in Brazil, and it’s still ongoing. But it wasn’t the disease itself that attracted the attention of health authorities, but the birth defects it can cause: microcephaly. The number of babies born with this severe defect has skyrocketed in Brazil last year.
Symptoms and transmission
The Zika virus is carried by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, a well-known vector for several other viruses (like Dengue fever, and Yellow Fever). It is present on all continents, from Africa to Asia, Australia, Europe, and even North America. But the virus can also be transmitted sexually, which is why the health authorities recommend people recently visiting affected areas to avoid unprotected intercourse.
The symptoms of the Zika fever are relatively mild. Some people are completely asymptomatic, others experience fever, headaches, rash, muscle and joint pain, that lasts for up to a week.