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article imageZika vaccine could eliminate prenatal infections

By Tim Sandle     May 27, 2018 in Science
According to a new research model, a Zika vaccine is needed. Such a vaccine could, the model suggests, virtually eliminate prenatal infections.
According to research from Yale School of Public Health, and supported by the American College of Physicians, a Zika vaccine would have a significant effect on mitigating and preventing future Zika virus outbreaks. The researchers postulate that via a mix of direct protection measures, with a vaccine, and an indirect practices designed reduce of transmissions, then the virtual elimination of the virus is achievable.
The researchers indicate that their computer model demonstrates the near elimination of Zika even with an imperfect vaccine and coverage that does not reach 100 percent. Zika vaccines are currently being developed, led by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has launched several initiatives which maintain dialogue between vaccine developers, regulators and public health, aimed at identifying how best to achieve a rapid, robust, safe, and evidence-based licensing of Zika virus vaccines.
Zika virus
Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae virus family. In one in four people the disease causes a mild illness known as Zika fever, for up to seven days. The symptoms include fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The biggest risks are infected women and babies born with abnormally small heads and brain defects, a condition called microcephaly.
A promising vaccine is a gene-based one from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. This vaccine includes a small, circular piece of DNA called a plasmid. In trials, the researchers have inserted genes into the plasmid which encode two proteins found on the surface of the Zika virus. This enables the human body to generate proteins which assemble into particles that mimic the Zika virus, thus triggering the immune system to mount an a response against the virus.
With the model, the Yale scientists looked at a Zika vaccination strategy which prioritized females aged 9 to 49 years, and then males aged 9 to 49 years. The model looked at vector-borne (mosquito carried) and sexual transmission. The model revealed that if a vaccine was developed which was 75 percent effective and was administered to 90 percent of females in a given area, this would reduce the incidence of prenatal infections by 94 percent.
The computer model outcomes have been published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The research paper is titled "Evaluating Vaccination Strategies for Zika Virus in the Americas."
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