The researcher have made some significant advances in developing a novel vaccine against Zika virus which is still active in many countries, though not acute as before.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide who led the studies feel that the vaccine has the potential to eliminate the deadly virus at the global level, if the current attempts reach the logical end.
Zika is a mosquito-transmitted ‘flavivirus’ which can cause microcephaly (a birth defect where a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected) and severe birth defects in infants born to infected mothers.
According to WHO, the Zika virus is present in more than 84 countries. As of 2019, virus activity continues in the Caribbean, most of Latin America, Central Africa, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Papua New Guinea, among other places. Zika became a major concern in 2016 following a massive outbreak that affected half a million people and caused more than 3,700 congenital birth defects.
The virology team, led by Professor Eric Gowans and Dr Branka Grubor-Bauk — based at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research and supported by The Hospital Research Foundation — has developed a vaccine that prevents Zika infection in pre-clinical models of the disease. The introduction of an effective vaccine for Zika will prevent infection of pregnant women and the resultant congenital effects in the unborn child.
“This is the first vaccine study that shows that a T cell-based vaccine can confer protection against a systemic Zika infection,” Dr Grubor-Bauk said. “Our vaccine offers an advantage over other vaccines in development by eliminating the ongoing concerns in the field about enhancement of infection following exposure to dengue virus. This finding demonstrates for the first time that protective T cell vaccines against Zika are achievable,” she added.