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Two New Zika Virus Studies You Need to Know

More information continues to be revealed about the Zika virus as research on a vaccine continues to advance as well. To this end, Penn Medicine investigators recently announced that they have engineered a synthetic DNA-based Zika vaccine able to safely and effectively induce an immune response against the virus, as investigators from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have discovered that surveillance for adverse pregnancy outcomes after a Zika outbreak may need to be longer than initially thought.

In the case of the Zika vaccine, investigators from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with investigators from the Wistar Institute, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and GeneOne Life Science, Inc, recently conducted a phase 1 clinical trial that showed “for the first time that humans who received up to 3 doses of a vaccine candidate produced an immune response against Zika with minimal adverse effects, opening the door to further clinical trials for this important vaccine candidate,” according to an official press release on the project. Dubbed, GLS-5700, the vaccine works by encouraging the host’s own immune system to organize a response against a specific Zika virus antigen.

For the phase 1 trial, the teams enrolled a total of 40 participants between August 2016 and September 2016. The participants were divided into 2 groups of 20 participants each, and they received, according to the press release, “1 or 2-milligram doses of the vaccine candidate intradermally at 0, 4, and 12 weeks.” Following each dose, participants were given “small electric currents into the skin at the site of injection, known as electroporation (EP), to facilitate optimal vaccine uptake, production of the intended antigen, and immune responses.”

The results showed that 2 weeks after receiving the third and final dose of the vaccine, 100% of the participants developed Zika-specific antibodies and 80% developed significant neutralizing antibodies against the virus. The investigators also discovered that serum taken from the participants and injected into infected immunocompromised mice protected the mice from developing disease. This indicates that the antibodies induced by the vaccine can prevent infection and disease in vivo.

This discovery is another step toward combatting a virus that can cause devastating effects in newborns of infected pregnant women. Positive advances against the Zika virus are imperative as the research community continues to learn more about just how far and wide the negative effects can go.

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