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.
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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 http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/31/11338450/zika-virus-structure-3d-purdue

 

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.

WHO update on Zika Virus – Focus on neurological disorders

whoCheck out the latest on Zika virus from the World Health Organization – including new information on the potential association of Zika with neurological disorders. WHO has called for intensified research into these associations. See the link for the full report.

The second meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders in some areas affected by Zika virus was held by teleconference on 8 March 2016, from 13:00 to 16:45 Central European Time.

The WHO Secretariat briefed the Committee on action in implementing the Temporary Recommendations issued by the Director-General on 1 February 2016, and on clusters of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) that have had a temporal association with Zika virus transmission. The Committee was provided with additional data from observational, comparative and experimental studies on the possible causal association between Zika virus infection, microcephaly and GBS.

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

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