Clinical trial testing of a DNA-based Zika vaccine is underway. Zika is a mosquito-transmitted disease which can cause serious birth defects known as congenital Zika syndrome which includes microcephaly (small head/brain) and can even cause paralysis in adults infected with the disease.

Where is Zika found?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) vaccine study is involved in a two-part clinical trial (VRC 705) being conducted in the areas where Zika-infected insects and people have been found. The trial includes 2,490 healthy participants in the continental U.S.

and Puerto Rico, Brazil, Perú, Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico.

The trial of the vaccine which is already known to work in monkeys is being evaluated for safety in humans and to make certain it will provoke an immune response. The trial also measures the best way to give the vaccine and determines the minimum necessary dose to protect against a Zika infection.

The vaccine was developed by the U.S. government, specifically through the National Institutes of Health or NIH, specifically the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID.) The Trump Administration wants to cut the NIH budget by $5.8 billion dollars.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. said, “A safe and effective Zika vaccine is urgently needed to prevent the often-devastating birth defects that can result from Zika Virus infection during pregnancy.

Evidence also is accumulating that Zika can cause a variety of health problems in adults as well.”

Until we have a working vaccine the only way to fight Zika is by spraying to kill mosquitos.

Pandemic status and symptoms

Zika is already classified by the NIH as a pandemic because it has spread so rapidly from almost unknown in early 2015 to thousands of cases in a half-dozen countries by Fall 2016.

The spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which carries the Zika virus is what determines the locations where Zika can become a major concern and for now, that is mostly limited to warmer southern regions.

However, if you have mosquitoes where you live Zika could eventually enter your area through some other variety of mosquito which is common where you live. There is already evidence that Zika can be carried by several other species.

Many people with a Zika infection have no symptoms or may think they have a minor case of the flu or an allergy attack resulting in low-grade fever, red eyes, and minor joint pain. This is very serious even in the most mild case because men can have the infection without knowing it and transmit it sexually to a woman who is pregnant or becomes pregnant. They can also be bitten by a mosquito in another region, adding to the spread of the virus and its pandemic threat.

Vaccine Safety

Many vaccines are simply weakened versions of the infectious agent and stimulate the person’s own immune system to be ready to fight the disease if and when they become infected. This leads to concerns that in some people with weakened immune systems the actual infection can develop from the vaccine.

The zika vaccine developed by the Viral Research Center (VRC) is different and can’t cause an infection. What the researchers did was take a bit of DNA (plasmid) from the shell of the Zika virus. When this piece of DNA is injected in human muscle the proteins look like Zika to the immune system but it does not contain any infectious material so “it cannot cause Zika infection.”