WASHINGTON: Scientists have developed a vaccine candidate for the Zika virus which they say successfully protected both mice and monkeys from the infection that causes brain deformations in human babies.
Demonstrating the effectiveness of the vaccine candidate in monkeys (non-human primates) is an important milestone because it typically predicts the vaccine will work in humans, enabling further clinical development, researchers at the University of Hawaii in the US said.
A strong global initiative to battle Zika has produced more than 30 vaccine candidates since outbreaks in 2015-2016 in Brazil linked the infection in some pregnant women to severe birth defects such as microcephaly in their newborns.
Zika is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and through sex.
There is no treatment or cure for Zika virus infection nor is any vaccine currently approved for public use.
The proposed vaccine, reported in the journals Frontiers in Immunology and mSphere, uses a protein of the Zika virus, produced in insect cells.
"We believe our vaccine candidate shows much promise particularly as it showed to require only two immunisations given three weeks apart and is a potentially safer alternative to other candidates already in clinical trials," said Axel Lehrer, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii.
The vaccine may be safer than other candidate vaccines, especially keeping in mind that pregnant women constitute a significant part of the target population for a Zika vaccine.