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A new vaccine has been effective against Zika on mice

30 June 2016

A new vaccine has been effective against Zika on mice

Tests in humans could begin in months.

However, experts advise that even if things go well a licenced vaccine for public use, even for those at greater risk, would still be a few years away.

US scientists from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School used two different types of Zika vaccines on mice, both harmless replicas of the actual virus.

Both vaccines eventually resulted in healthy and immune mince while the untreated mice contracted the disease.

The WRAIR says that it will go ahead with developing the purified inactivated virus vaccine, because this method has been successful in the past - there are already many existing vaccines for other disease that use this type of technology.

Further extensive future tests will be needed to check the vaccine is safe and functional in humans, as well as how long the treatment can be estimated to last.

Researcher Dr Dan Barouch said: "There's a lot of unknowns.

"With the preclinical demonstration of efficacy of these Zika virus vaccines, then we hope that this news will electrify and galvinise the vaccine effort against Zika virus."

Prof David O'Connor said: "It suggests the sort of immunity that occurs naturally is sufficient.

"If you can mimic that in a vaccine, you'll likely have a very successful vaccine."

But other experts are more cautious.

Prof Jonathan Ball, from the UK's Nottingham University, said.  "These studies clearly show us that the vaccine is able to generate antibodies that protect the mice from Zika infection," he said.

"However, it is also possible that the vaccine might produce antibodies that also recognise other viruses from the same family, like Dengue virus for example.

"The real worry is that these cross-reactive antibodies may actually enhance the infection of the other viruses, potentially causing very severe disease."

Prof Peter Openshaw, from the British Society for Immunology, said  "By the time human vaccines are ready, many of the vulnerable population will have already been naturally infected," he said.

"The purpose of vaccination will presumably be to protect travellers and those wishing to become pregnant.

"It will be vital to see how vaccines will work in such situations and how the practical and economic barriers to vaccine deployment can be overcome."

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