Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that has been frightening everyone since it started sweeping the Americas and Caribbean earlier this year, may soon be much less of a worry. Thanks to scientists testing vaccines on mice, a vaccine that can protect humans from contracting the virus — which has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect — may be just a few steps away.
"With diseases spread by biting insects, such as Zika, standard quarantine measures are useless, so stopping an outbreak in its tracks requires a vaccine-led approach," said Dr. Dan Barouch of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, whose team helped to develop one of two experimental vaccines.
One is a DNA vaccine, while the other is made from an inactivated strand of the virus, and both experimental vaccines have proved to be 100 percent effective in protecting mice from contracting the virus with just one shot. In the other half of the study, all of the mice exposed to Zika without the vaccine contracted symptoms of the virus. Though there's still a long way to go before any of this data can be used to help find a way to create a human vaccine, researchers feel optimistic that it's a possibility.
Meanwhile at the University of Wisconsin, researchers have successfully infected rhesus macaques monkeys with the virus, all of whom have since developed antibodies to protect themselves from contracting the virus again. This is a promising sign that humans will be able to do the same.