The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is beginning the second phase of their trial for a new Zika virus vaccine. In this trial, 2,490 healthy participants in Zika affected areas will be administered the vaccine and monitored for 2 years. This phase of the trial is to determine if the vaccine is effective in preventing an adult from contracting the virus when they are exposed to it naturally.
According to NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
“A safe and effective Zika vaccine is urgently needed to prevent the often-devastating birth defects that can result from Zika virus infection during pregnancy. Evidence also is accumulating that Zika can cause a variety of health problems in adults as well. This trial marks a significant milestone in our efforts to develop countermeasures for a pandemic in progress.”
In 2016 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases of Zika virus in the United States, in travelers returning from South America. Since then the virus has emerged in parts of the southern U.S.
The virus spreads primarily through the bite of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are found throughout the Americas. Though the typical symptoms of Zika virus in adults include “no or only mild symptoms, such as fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes),” exposure to the virus in pregnant women leads to congenital Zika syndrome in fetuses, a collective term for any fetal defects caused by the Zika Virus. According to data from the CDC, there have been a reported 1,716 cases of Zika viruses in pregnant women in the U.S. and 3,461 in pregnant women in U.S. territories.
Current measures to prevent the diseases, according to the CDC, are limited to preventing mosquito bites in areas known to carry the Zika as well as other small precautions. If effective, this vaccine will provide a safe method to prevent the harmful effects of the virus in both the U.S. and elsewhere.
Read more at the National Institutes of Health.