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Feb 08, 2017 07:47 AM EST

UPenn-Led Team Of Scientists Develops Zika Vaccine

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A team of scientists led by University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Drew Weissman were able to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus. This is a virus spread by infected Aedes species mosquitoes. Its most scary effect is that it can be passed by a pregnant woman to her fetus, causing the baby to have birth defects such as microcephaly.

In the official website of Penn Medicine News, it was reported that a new Zika vaccine candidate has been developed by a research team led by scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It has the potential to protect against the virus with just one dose.

The study was published in the journal "Nature." The scientists conducted preclinical tests which showed favorable immune responses in mice and monkeys.

Dr. Weissman, a professor of Infectious Disease at UPenn, said that they were able to observe rapid and durable protective immunity without adverse events. They believe that the candidate vaccine they developed can be a promising strategy to fight the Zika virus globally. He confirmed that they will be starting clinical trials in a year or so.

According to Philly Voice, the research was done in collaboration with laboratories at Duke University as well as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Scientists at UPenn's Perelman School of Medicine led the study.

New Scientist noted that other candidate vaccines require two immunization shots, which is not very practical. Plus, it reduces the level of protection if the patient misses the second shot. Dr. Weissman and his team's vaccine is more potent, providing monkeys, specifically rhesus macaques, immunity to the virus at one-twentieth of the dose required for other vaccines.

The team discovered that mice that received the vaccine became immune to the virus at two weeks and at five months after the dose. Five rhesus macaques were also given a single injection and it protected four of them for at least five weeks after. The fifth monkey was infected with a small amount of the virus, which may be because it received a higher dose of the vaccine.

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