A research team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine managed to create a Zika vaccine that has shown to protect against the virus on mice and monkeys with just a single dosage. The team hopes to now move on to preclinical trials within the upcoming year.
This vaccine works by using small strands of modified mRNA molecules that have information to make viral proteins. These molecules differ from typical mRNAs because they are able to move past the immune system without triggering a response and can then enter the cells to start production and amplification of viral proteins. This vaccine is similar to live virus vaccines in that it could produce a stronger amount of immune protection but without the negative side effects of a live virus vaccine since it actually is inactivated.
From the studies on mice and monkeys, a single dose has protected the animal for several weeks. These vaccines have led to high quantities of antibodies within the animals that then helps them fight the Zika infection. This strong protection, to an extent, is due to the stimulation of CD4 helper T cells, which leads to a virus neutralization level 25 times greater than a typical vaccine. It will be interesting how the clinical trials play out!
-Jeanette Rios (‘18)