Friday, November 18, 2016

DNA-Based Zika Vaccine Showed Protection from Infection, Brain Damage and Death

The Zika Virus has wreaked havoc on the lives of millions throughout the globe. Prior studies on Zika virus treatments have only been studied on animals who are naturally resistant to the disease, however, this new clinical study by researcher David B. Weiner, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Director of the Vaccine Center at the Wistar Institute and the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Professor in Cancer Research at Wistar is in the midst of establishing how a synthetic DNA vaccine approach can protect against infection, brain damage and death caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus in vivo.1                           
In the clinical study all animals survived when exposed to Zika and even the cerebral cortex and hippocampus areas of the brain was protected from degeneration. As the first of its kind to research using animals susceptible to the virus, this breakthrough can possibly lead to a preventative vaccine that can be used in the future. Its neuroprotective abilities can alleviate concerns over newborns developing microcephaly, which is characterized by small heads and underdevelopment of the brain.2

Currently, two human studies are being conducted in Quebec City and the United States; the results of phase I will be complete by the end of the year. A second study is also being conducted in Puerto Rico, where about 25% of people are expected to be infected. This statistic means that a placebo-controlled design for the vaccine might soon be plausible.

                             In this preclinical study, 100 percent of the animal models were protected from Zika after vaccination followed by a challenge with the Zika virus. Credit: Gino Santa Maria/Fololia

This article demonstrates the importance of epidemiological research. The Zika Virus has proven to be extremely threatening to the livelihood of both newborns and adults whom are susceptible. The consequences of infection long-lasting neurological effects. 

These new studies afford a chance to conquer the Zika Virus and prevent the neural degeneration of populations in areas that are high-risk.

     1. The Wistar Institue. "DNA-based Zika vaccine showed protection from infection, brain damage and death." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2016.

     2. David B Weiner et al. In vivo protection against ZIKV infection and pathogenesis through passive antibody transfer and active immunization with prMEnv DNA vaccine. npj Vaccines, November 2016 DOI: 10.1038/npjvaccines.2016.21

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