The first experimental Zika vaccine is now ready for human trials, health officials said.
Vaccine developers Inovio Pharmaceuticals from Pennsylvania and its partner GeneOne Life Sciences from South Korea said that officials gave them the go signal to start testing a DNA vaccine - the GLS-5700 - on humans.
The early-stage study will involve 40 healthy subjects with the primary goal of assessing the safety of the vaccine and measuring the immune response from the injection.
J. Joseph Kim, chief executive of Inovio - a company that is also developing vaccines for other devastating global viruses such as Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) - said that tests will begin in the next few weeks and results will be presented later this year.
"We are proud to have attained the approval to initiate the first Zika vaccine study in human volunteers," Kim said in a statement published by The Washington Post.
"As of May 2016, 58 countries and territories reported continuing mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus; the incidences of viral infection and medical conditions caused by the virus are expanding, not contracting," Kim added.
Other companies are also working on vaccines. The French pharmaceutical Sanofi SA is also set to begin testing its vaccine on humans next year. India's Bharat Biotech is also in the race of developing a vaccine for Zika virus
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post that the best hope against Zika is a vaccine and that this vaccine may take less time to develop than vaccines for other infectious diseases.
The challenge, however, lies in the fact that Zika invades the nervous system unlike other viruses.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recently granted approval for emergency use of a Zika test from Altona Diagnostics.
Another company, Hologic, has also developed a diagnostic test to identify traces of Zika virus in human blood and has also received approval in using this test during emergency cases in all 50 states and other territories, including Puerto Rico.
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