Zika Vaccine Efforts Get Boost From Prior Research
U.S. health officials say valuable lessons were learned during battles against other mosquito-borne viruses
By Dennis Thompson
THURSDAY, Jan. 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Efforts to create a Zika vaccine are getting a leg up from lessons learned during earlier battles against other mosquito-borne viruses, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
Researchers are working on two potential vaccines, each based on earlier vaccines created in response to prior outbreaks of West Nile virus and dengue, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a morning news conference.
"It is to our advantage that we already have existing vaccine platforms to use as a sort of jumping-off point," Fauci said.
A Zika vaccine could be ready for clinical trial by later this year, but Fauci warned that it will likely take years before the vaccine is ready for market.
"It is important to understand that we will not have a widely available safe and effective Zika vaccine this year, and probably not even in the next few years," he said.
There have been no outbreaks in the United States so far of Zika virus, but limited U.S. outbreaks are "possible" and "even likely" given that the same sort of aggressive, day-biting mosquito that spreads Zika is present in the southern United States, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, Schuchat emphasized that the main health concern at this point is for pregnant women who are exposed to the virus.
"Increasing lines of evidence suggest that some women who are infected with Zika during their pregnancy may go on to deliver a baby with a serious brain injury," Schuchat said.
That's why the CDC has issued a health warning urging pregnant women to avoid the more than 20 countries in Central and South America where Zika infection is active, she said. Zika virus also is present in two U.S. territories, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"The virus is spreading throughout the Americas, and we expect more countries to be affected," Schuchat said.