Scientists discover 3 vaccines to battle Zika
Three Zika vaccines have been found to give complete protection against the virus in monkeys and scientists say they are ready to be trialled on humans.
The breakthrough offers hope that within months an effective jab will be available to prevent the devastating infection, which has been linked to more than 1,700 cases of microcephaly, a birth defect which leaves babies with shrunken heads.
Yesterday, a collaboration of scientists including researchers from Harvard University and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, confirmed that tests of three vaccines had given complete immunity to rhesus monkeys.
British virologists said the announcement was "as good a result as you could have wished for", and an "important step" in combating the disease.
Senior author Dr Dan Barouch, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre said: "Three vaccines provided complete protection against Zika virus in non-human primates, which is the best animal model prior to starting clinical trials.
"The consistent and robust protection against Zika virus in both rodents and primates fuels our optimism about the development of a safe and effective Zika vaccine for humans."
Babies can be born with shrunken heads if their mothers catch Zika when they are pregnant
Laboratories across the world have been rushing to develop a vaccine since the Zika outbreak began last year.
The pressure has mounted after it was confirmed this week that 15 people in Florida had caught the virus from local populations of mosquitoes. In an unprecedented move, the Center for Disease Control warned pregnant women to keep away from an area of north Miami.
Two of the three vaccines were developed by BIDMC and a third was created by Army researchers from The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR).
One virus consisted of an inactivated form of the Zika virus and the other two used a fragment of viral DNA to trigger an immune response.
A total of 20 monkeys were used to test the three vaccines and after two weeks all showed complete protection and were not infected when exposed to strains from Brazil and Peurto Rico. There were no side effects to the vaccine.
"Results from both mouse and non-human primate testing are encouraging and support a decision to advance our vaccine candidate to human trials," said Col. Stephen Thomas, an infectious disease Army physician and a vaccinologist at the WRAIR.