The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has launched a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate intended to prevent Zika virus infection. The early-stage study will evaluate the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune system response in participants. At least 80 healthy volunteers ages 18-35 years at three study sites in the United States, including the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are expected to participate in the trial. Scientists at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) developed the investigational vaccine — called the NIAID Zika virus investigational DNA vaccine — earlier this year.
The study is part of the U.S. government response to the ongoing outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 countries and territories have active Zika virus transmission(link is external). In the United States and its territories, more than 6,400 Zika cases have been reported. Although Zika infections are usually asymptomatic, some people experience mild illness lasting about a week. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal defects of the brain and other organs. There are no vaccines or specific therapeutics to prevent or treat Zika virus disease.
“A safe and effective vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection and the devastating birth defects it causes is a public health imperative,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “NIAID worked expeditiously to ready a vaccine candidate, and results in animal testing have been very encouraging. We are pleased that we are now able to proceed with this initial study in people. Although it will take some time before a vaccine against Zika is commercially available, the launch of this study is an important step forward.”
The NIAID Zika virus investigational DNA vaccine approach is similar to that used for another investigational vaccine developed by NIAID for West Nile virus. That vaccine candidate was found to be safe and induced an immune response when tested in a Phase 1 clinical trial.
Read more at National Institutes of Health