First Zika vaccine to be tested in humans #progress

Reported by CNN:

(CNN)The first human trial of a Zika vaccine will begin soon, Inovio Pharmaceuticals said Monday.

Inovio, which is based in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, and GeneOne Life Science, which is based in Seoul, South Korea, worked together on the vaccine. They previously collaborated to create vaccines for Ebolaand MERS, both of which are being tested.

The Zika vaccine, with the clinical-sounding name GLS-5700, will first be tested in 40 healthy volunteers. The first tests in humans should start in the next few weeks, Inovio said in a news release.
In the animal testing stage, the vaccine caused a strong antibody response, the company said. It is still very early in the vaccine’s development. Phase I of a vaccine trial ensures that it can be tolerated well in human subjects. If successful in this first round of human testing, it will need additional approval for further testing.
At the next stage, the vaccine would be tested on people who have Zika. Then there would be a stage to see how well it works on a larger group of people. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health, is leading a team that is trying a few approaches to a vaccine, including an approach using DNA like Inovio’s does. He believes that trial could start by the end of August. In the coming months, he said, we will probably be hearing about a number of vaccine candidates going into Phase I trials. “This is all good news,” Fauci said.

Now we can see what the Zika virus looks like! #science #CryoEM

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 11.04.48 AM.png

Kuhn and Rossman Research groups/ Purdue University. From


Scientists at Purdue have just published the structure of the Zika virus in Science this week! Using Cryo EM (hey, that’s what I do!), they were able to obtain a 3.8 angstrom resolution reconstruction of the virus. Basically what that means is that we now know what the virus actually looks like, so this will help scientists figure out how to target it.

Summary from The Verge:

The report, published today in Science, describes the virus as a spherical structure resembling that of the dengue virus and other viruses in its genus, known as “flaviviruses.” But the 3D rendition also reveals some important differences. For example, scientists found the virus’ outer shell is slightly different from that of other viruses. This could help researchers attack the virus as a whole, or at the very least, prevent it from attaching to human cells.

Obama asks congress for $$$ to fight Zika

President Barack Obama will ask the U.S. Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika at home and abroad and pursue a vaccine, the White House said on Monday, but he added there is no reason to panic over the mosquito-borne virus.

Zika, spreading rapidly in South and Central America and the Caribbean, has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil, and public health officials’ concern is focused on pregnant women and women who may become pregnant.

Obama’s request to Congress includes $200 million for research, development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for the virus.

Read more from Reuters here.

10 things to know about Zika virus

The threat of Zika: Q&A

WHO says Zika virus is strongly suspected of causing birth defects and may infect 3-4 million people in the Americas.

Tarek Bazley | 31 Jan 2016 14:15 GMT

The Zika virus (yellow) is strongly suspected of causing birth defects. [Science Photo Library]

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus.

Symptoms are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Just one in five people infected becomes ill. Hospitalisation is uncommon and deaths are rare.

How does it spread?

Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species of mosquito.

Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy but how and when this happens is unclear.

Those infected can pass the virus on through a mosquito bite for about seven days after infection.

There are no reports of transmission through breastfeeding, but in a few cases the virus has been reported to have been passed on through blood transfusion and sexual contact.

Where is Zika?

The latest outbreak is in 23 countries in the Carribean, Central America, South America, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Past outbreaks have been in Gabon, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, Cambodia, Micronesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia.

How did Zika get to Brazil?

Nothing has been proven but Zika may have been brought to Brazil by participants of the Va’a World Sprint Canoeing World Championships, held in August 2014.

Athletes came from French Polynesia, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands and Easter Island.

It has also been suggested that Zika was brought by Asian tourists attending the 2014 FIFA World Cup, raising concerns that the Olympics, starting in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, will result in further spread of the virus.

How is Zika diagnosed?

A blood or tissue sample from the first week in the infection must be sent to an advanced laboratory.

The virus can be detected through sophisticated molecular testing that seeks out the active virus, which lasts in the body for about a week.

Research is being done to develop a rapid test which could look for antibodies after a patient has recovered from the virus, making it possible to test for immunity.

How is Zika treated?

There is no vaccine or specific medicine currently available and treatment is normally focused on relieving the symptoms.

Can a vaccine be developed?

In theory a vaccine is possible but development testing and trials for human vaccines normally take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

A number of companies, including Inovio, Hawaii Biotech, GSK and Sanofi are developing or considering working on a vaccine.

Last year Sanofi received approval for the world’s first dengue vaccine.

Dengue is closely related to Zika but Sanofi is cautious about whether it could be adapted.

“There are too many unknowns about Zika to reliably judge the ability to research and develop a vaccine effectively at this time,” it said in a statement.

What is microcephaly and how is it linked?

Microcephaly is a birth defect characterised by incomplete brain development and an unusually small head.

It is a life-long condition with no cure or standard of treatment, and is linked with conditions such as seizures, developmental delays and intellectual problems.

Microcephaly is normally uncommon. In the US, there are typically between two and 12 cases per 10,000 newborns.

The condition is being reported in the worst Zika-affected areas in Brazil at dramatically higher rates: 100 cases for every 10,000, or 1 percent of births.

Research from Brazil has suggested there is a correlation between the location and timing of this Zika outbreak and the increase in cases of microcephaly, but there is currently no proof that the virus causes the birth defect.

However, Zika virus has been found in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women with the virus and in the placentas and brains of miscarried fetuses with microcephaly. The World Health Organisation’s Director-General Dr Margaret Chan says a causal link is “strongly suspected”.

Why was the potential link between Zika and birth defects not previously observed?

In areas where Zika has been active for decades, such as Central Africa and Asia, most people are infected early in life, so the risk of infection during pregnancy is small.

The population in the Americas has not had exposure to the virus until now.

This means more women are now being exposed to the virus for the first time during pregnancy, possibly increasing the risk of birth defects.

This is why public health officials are telling women to avoid getting pregnant, at least until they have had the virus, or Zika has been brought under control.

Can GM mosquitos stop the virus?

British biotech company Oxitec has produced genetically modified Aedes aegyptimosquitoes by introduing two genes into its DNA.

One of them makes its eggs glow under UV light, helping with identification.

The other causes ithe mosquito’s offspring to die.

Oxitec says that by releasing the GM mosquitos into infected areas populations of Aedes aegypti can be reduced by more than 80 percent, thereby reducing transmission of Zika.

Oxitec says there is no way the mosquitos’ modified DNA can transfer into humans or other mammals and insects, but public fears over genetic modification mean the technique is controversial.

Source: Al Jazeera

More proof of vaccine effectiveness – PAHO announces elimination of Rubella in Americas!!

South and North America have eradicated Rubella virus with use of vaccines (which DO NOT cause autism)!! This is the third virus that has been eliminated from the Americas using vaccines. More info here at NPR.

The Americas have led the way when it comes to eradicating diseases. It was the first region in the world to eradicate smallpox in 1971 and then polio in 1994. And the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) already has its sights on another target.

However, elimination of this virus, or others, does not mean people should stop vaccinating. It demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of vaccination.

The eradication of rubella doesn’t mean we’ll never see the virus again in the U.S. People still bring it here from other countries. But it doesn’t spread far because so many Americans are vaccinated.

Despite the success of vaccines in eradicating these harmful and lethal diseases, there is still more to do!

“With rubella under our belt, now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and finish the job of eliminating measles as well,” Etienne (director of PAHO) said.

I guess PAHO should start in California, hahahaha (not really funny). Who said vaccines are ineffective??? And what did they base that lie on??

How A Tilt Toward Safety Stopped A Scientist’s Virus Research

A great piece by NPR.  UNC (woohoo Tarheels!) researcher Ralph Baric had been investigating MERS (Middle East Respiratory Virus) until a recent government moratorium halting that kind of research.

If this virus mutates so that it spreads easily through the air, millions could die. “It would go around the globe quickly, and this would result in high morbidity and mortality, disruption of the economy, and, in some cases, the collapse of governments,” says Baric.

That’s why researchers want to learn as much as they can about MERS. It’s a type of virus called a coronavirus, which is the special focus of Baric’s lab.

However, a recent decision from the Obama administration has decided to stop govt-funded research on this virus, and also on influenza and SARS.

The Obama administration was concerned about any research that could make the viruses more dangerous, so they wanted to stop and review studies to see if they could make these germs capable of causing more disease or spreading easily through the air.

“I don’t think it’s wise or appropriate for us to create large risks that don’t already exist,” saysDavid Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University.

Ad for for Baric,

Asked if his lab is creating any new forms of these viruses that would be more dangerous for people, Baric replied: “Absolutely not. And we do more genetics in than probably anyone else in the world.”

He says he may not ultimately agree with whatever guidelines are put in place, but “if that’s what it takes to continue the research, then that’s what we’ll do. Ultimately we are responsive to the public.”

What do YOU think?  Is this type of research too dangerous? Is the moratorium a good idea? Or is the government overstepping its bounds?  Participate in the poll, and let us know!


The science of why you won’t catch #ebola from someone without symptoms @stgoldst @ConversationUK

This is a terrific scientific summary about ebola, viral levels, and infectivity! I have been waiting for this! Super psyched its from a student at PENN!!! Someone please send this to politicians, fear-mongerers, and anyone else suffering from FEAR-BOLA!

Why people without symptoms aren’t going to give you Ebola

By Stephen Goldstein, University of Pennsylvania

Fear of Ebola has put many on high alert and there is increasing anxiety about the possibility of individuals with minimal exposure and no symptoms introducing the virus into communities – people such as Craig Spencer, the doctor who contracted Ebola while working in Guinea who then went bowling and rode the subway in New York before exhibiting symptoms.

Fear has kept people away from school and work, despite reassurances from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that someone with Ebola becomes contagious only once they develop symptoms.

In light of this, it is worthwhile explaining the data behind these assurances, which the WHO and CDC haven’t done, to make clear why we are so confident that people without symptoms can’t give you Ebola.

The Kikwit outbreak

There are five different known types of ebolavirus (the genus), including Zaire ebolavirus, which is behind the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. The best epidemiological data on Ebola virus (the disease) transmission comes from the 1995 outbreak in Kikwit, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was caused by the same species as the current epidemic.

The Kikwit outbreak marked the first appearance of EBOV since its initial discovery in 1976, and a team from the CDC and WHO extensively studied what interactions, and when, led to EBOV transmission. The team followed 173 household members of 27 active cases until the end of the outbreak. They were able to identify who became sick and which interactions between sick people and their family members during the incubation period, early illness, and late illness were associated with transmission.

The biggest risk factors for becoming infected with Ebola virus, identified in the 1995 outbreak, and outbreaks in 1979 and a different species in 2000-2001, are direct physical contact with a sick person, primarily with bodily fluids such as blood, vomit, diarrhoea, and later in the disease, sweat and saliva. Ebola virus can survive outside the body for anywhere from hours to days, depending on the environmental conditions such as dampness and exposure to sunlight. Therefore, infection by contact with objects contaminated with bodily fluids is also theoretically possible, but is likely to be rare in practice.

During the Kikwit outbreak, 95 family members of the 27 cases had direct physical contact with someone who was actually sick, and 28 of these individuals became sick with Ebola themselves. Of the 78 family members who did not have direct physical contact with a sick person, none got Ebola. Among these 78 were family members who had extensive contact with infected individuals during the incubation period, including such close interactions such as touching and sharing a bed.

Virus levels in the blood

Hard to diagnose early.

We also have data on virus levels in the blood that suggests people aren’t contagious before they are symptomatic. As the most infectious fluids are blood and vomit, the amount of virus in these fluids is a critical factor in whether an infected person can transmit the virus.

During the 2000-2001 outbreak the virus was often just barely detectable at the first sign of symptoms and in other cases wasn’t detectable until two or three days later.

We understand this to be true in West Africa today as well. Our tests are extremely sensitive, and it’s clear that little virus is present in the blood when symptoms appear and even less during the incubation period, explaining why we aren’t able to diagnose people during this time.

Without these high levels of virus in the blood and other fluids, it is exceedingly unlikely that someone would be contagious.

To be fair, however, we never say never in biology and we can’t prove a negative, so no experiment could tell us that transmission during the incubation period is truly impossible. But what we do know is that it doesn’t seem to happen in past or current outbreaks and is biologically implausible. Rather than panic about getting Ebola from a seemingly uninfected neighbour, we should focus on isolating people at the first sign of symptoms so that when they do get sicker and become highly contagious, they aren’t in a position to infect anyone else.

Flying nurses

In light of Dallas nurse Amber Vinson’s recent travel on a commercial airline with a mild fever before she was diagnosed (now Ebola-free), many people want to know whether individuals in the early stage of the disease – say with just a fever – are contagious. School districts and employers have been treating Pham’s fellow airline passengers as being at risk of disease and as potential transmitters, but should they be?

The answer is almost certainly no. Levels of virus in the blood increase rapidly following the onset of symptoms, but at this early stage people aren’t vomiting or bleeding, which would expose those around them to potentially infectious fluids, and onward transmission.

While it’s true that virus can be found in fluids such as saliva and sweat, this mostly occurs later in disease, when the individual would be hospitalised. During the 1995 outbreak having a conversation, sharing a meal and sharing a bed with people in the early stage of disease were not associated with becoming infected oneself.

Later in the disease this changes, but it seems clear that slightly sick people aren’t much of a risk to those around them. Anecdotally, we also now know that the family of Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was later cared for by Vinson and Nina Pham, remained healthy despite being in an apartment with him for the first several days of his illness.

Knowing this, we shouldn’t be barring people with no direct exposure from school, or work. It’s not “an abundance of caution” to do this, it’s harmful. Unless you sat next to the sick nurse on that plane, your exposure was almost zero. If you did, you’re still almost certainly fine. If you had contact with her before she was sick, you definitely are. Still, it’s natural to worry, which is why we need to stop the epidemic in West Africa, mostly for them, but also so we can stop worrying about Ebola virus here at home.

The Conversation

Stephen Goldstein does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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