Experimental vaccines protect fetuses from Zika infection in mouse study

Amos Gonzales
July 14, 2017

Zika virus causes a mild, flu-like illness in most people, but to pregnant women the dangers are potentially much worse. The US government is supporting the development of several candidate Zika vaccines to improve the chances of having one available by 2018 to protect at-risk populations.

They gave groups of 18 to 20 non-pregnant female mice one injection of one of the vaccines or a placebo, and some animals received a second injection of the same vaccine or placebo a month later.

"Based on these data, we believe that evaluating the vaccines' ability to prevent birth defects in humans is warranted", Shi said.

Next, researchers mated the female mice and infected them with Zika virus.

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In a study published online in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the researchers, led by Indira Mysorekar from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, showed how the drug appeared to reduce transmission of Zika virus from pregnant mice to their foetuses.

"In summary, the modified mRNA and live-attenuated vaccine platforms generated sufficient immunity to protect against infection and disease in pregnant and non-pregnant mice", the study wrote. A new study in mice shows that females vaccinated before pregnancy and infected with Zika virus while pregnant bear pups who show no trace of the virus.

Mice treated with hydroxychloroquine have lower levels of detectable virus in their placentas and less placental damage, compared to untreated mice, the findings showed. "But campaigners on Thursday said a lack of government investment in sanitation services for the poor, insecure water access, and other conditions which exacerbated the crisis are still present in Brazil, raising the potential of future outbreaks..." Left uncovered, these water containers can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.

Last year, Diamond and others developed a mouse model of Zika infection that mimics the effects of the infection in pregnant women. Earlier this week, the Indian media said a case was also detected in Tamil Nadu in the south. He added that microcephaly can result from many different viruses and that so far India hasn't detected any Zika-linked microcephaly cases.

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