Zika Virus Vaccine Enters Human Testing, More Than 2,000 Volunteers Needed

On Friday, federal researchers shared that scientists are now getting closer to developing a vaccine for the Zika virus, thus bringing an end to this horrible mosquito-borne disease. The Zika virus has scared the world by attacking soon-to-be mothers and unborn children, leading to birth defects.

The need to take measures against Zika virus has been deemed extremely necessary by public health experts. It has been expressed that the effects of this mosquito-borne virus are too devastating to ignore as it causes birth defects.

The most worrisome effect of the Zika virus is microcephaly which renders an infant to be born with an abnormally small head with an underdeveloped brain. The devastating defects don’t stop there, other effects include joint and hearing problems as well as poor vision.

Fortunately, scientists are not on their own in the fight to end the Zika virus as over 2,000 volunteers signed up for the human testing for the vaccine as reported by USA Today. Earlier this week, the first volunteer received a test dose in Houston and further testing will take place in Miami, San Juan, and Puerto Rico by June. Furthermore, the great minds behind the experimental DNA Zika virus vaccine hope to enroll more volunteers for testing from all over the United States.

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Apparently, testing for the experimental Zika virus vaccine started in summer and the results have inspired scientists to continue pushing forward. Researchers hope to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and the optimal dose.

Researchers will have at least 2,400 men and nonpregnant women, ages 15 to 35 to participate in the trials in June. The location of these participants is also an important variable to consider in the trial as researchers need to know the vaccine’s effectiveness when the subjects are in places that are known to have the virus.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) revealed that their government scientists have recently entered the second phase in developing the vaccine to counter the Zika virus. The Denver Post reports that the experimental vaccine that is currently being developed in NIAID is the first to make this much progress.

The results of the Zika virus vaccine testing is expected to be available by the end of 2017. In light of this, if the testing phase generates good results, the Food and Drug Administration may allow its use if a Zika virus outbreak takes place.

“If there is a good vaccine efficacy signal and there is an outbreak in South America, the FDA could make that vaccine available by different mechanisms,” says NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. “But it depends on the emergent need of the vaccine and the quality of the data.”

It may seem that the Zika virus has been rather low-key these past few months but that, by no means, indicate that the threatening virus has disappeared. Officials still encourage people to take any preventive measure against the virus and to stay prepared for another Zika virus outbreak. Apparently, warm weather and the mosquito season increase the chances of the mosquito-borne disease wreaking havoc once again.

In the United States alone 1,228 Zika-infected pregnancies have been recorded, yielding 54 babies born with birth defects while several ended in miscarriages, abortions, or stillbirths. Birth defects are not the only alarming effect found in Zika-infected individuals. According to Anthony Fauci, evidence that proves Zika causes other health problems outside pregnancy have been gathered. Apparently, the Zika virus can also cause several health problems such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and heart-related issues.

Fortunately, the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts will not affect the experimental Zika virus vaccine trial which costs $100 million. As per Fauci, “That money has been allocated to this trial, and it’s not going to be unallocated.”

[Featured Image By Felipe Dana/AP Images]