Zika Vaccine to Begin Testing on Humans in Coming Weeks

zika virus vaccine
Science & Medicine

Two pharmaceutical companies have confirmed that human trials for a Zika vaccine will begin within the next few weeks. However, they have confirmed that actual vaccines may not be available for mass consumption for another year or so. [1]

Several companies have competed in a bid to win the right to be the first to test the newfound Zika vaccine on humans. Pennsylvania’s Inovio Pharmaceuticals and South Korea’s GeneOne Life Sciences have been granted access to the first studies due to their success with the vaccine in testing on animals.

This will be the first phase of many with regards to human testing, and they will begin testing on 40 healthy humans later this week. Results won’t be ready until later on in the year. [1]

Inovio chief executive, J Joseph Kim said the following about his company’s upcoming trials:

“We are proud to have attained the approval to initiate the first Zika vaccine study in human volunteers. As of May 2016, 58 countries and territories reported continuing mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus; the incidences of viral infection and medical conditions caused by the virus are expanding, not contracting.”

The defense used against Zika is a DNA vaccine called GLS-5000. Not only will the pilot test the safety of the new vaccine, but it will also gauge participants’ immune system response.

Although Zika is related to West Nile, dengue, and yellow fever, it is unique in that it attacks the placenta of pregnant women. Those infected with Zika often give birth to babies suffering from microcephaly, a condition that causes the child’s head to develop at an abnormally slow rate. This causes not only cosmetic issues, but can contribute to severe developmental delays.

Zika can also invade the nervous system and create issues like Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause muscle weakness, pain, numbness and tingling and co-ordination problems.

So far, six babies have been born in the United States with Zika-related microcephaly. It is hoped by many that the vaccine will put a stop to this phenomenon in the coming years.

Inovio is also working on revolutionary vaccines for Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in addition to helping curb the current Zika epidemic.


[1] The Washington Post

The Washington Times