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New Experimental Zika Vaccine 100% Effective in Animal Trials -- How Does it Work?

Feb 14, 2017 11:35 AM EST
New Experimental Zika Vaccine Is 100% Effective In Animal Trials! How Does It Work?
The new vaccine, developed by investigators from the University of Pennsylvania, has a consistent 100-percent success rate at protecting mice and monkeys from the virus.
(Photo : Aventis Pasteur MSD/Getty Images)

At the aftermath of the Zika virus, physicians and medical experts have just begun involving themselves with finding a cure should the virus strike again, and it seems one of them is leading the race. 

The new vaccine, developed by investigators from the University of Pennsylvania, has a consistent 100-percent success rate at protecting mice and monkeys from the virus.

This is a breakthrough in the quest for a Zika vaccine because scientists in the field are still afraid that the virus may make a comeback. While it is not as severe as other outbreaks that happened in the past, the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria may have sparked the need to develop such a vaccine. 

Drew Weissman told Digital Trends that the virus uses a modified mRNA in a lipid-based particle. Its primary advantage is that the mRNA is physiologic, meaning the body will not treat it as hostile. This makes it very safe. The main problem with vaccines is that if the body treats it as hostile, cells will attack it and either render it useless or even have side-effects. 

Interstingly, Weissman's vaccine has a lot of benefits aside from protection. According to their study, published in Nature, the immune system allowed free entry of the vaccine into the body, and it didn't show any bad effects to the animals it was tested on. The vaccine only needs a small dosage to work, which is just 1 to 4 milligrams, a big difference from the 50-milligram injections in the past.

The team now wants to try to work on humans for the next stage of their trial. If the paperwork is accepted, then they can start testing the vaccine as early as 2018. After that, a Phase 2 trial may be set for 2020. This means, if all goes well, a new Zika virus vaccine may enter the market before 2025.

The most successful Zika vaccine as of the moment uses an adenovirus candidate. This means it uses a virus to transfer the vaccine into the body to make sure it's sustained. However it poses a risk as the human body's immune system attacks adenoviruses, which means that the virus may be killed before it does its job.

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