Zika News: Ongoing Strategies against the spread of Zika Virus Infection
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Zika News: Ongoing Strategies Against the Spread of Zika Virus Infection

Ongoing Strategies Against Zika Spread

Dr. Chibueze C. Ezinne, MD, PhD

August 24, 2016. Immunologists and public health specialists alike respond to the global spread of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection, in the wake of the recently concluded Olympics.

Control strategies including clinical trials for vaccine production and vector control are ongoing, in a bid to stem the spread of ZIKV.

Three leading researchers in the field outlined the current strategies against Zika virus infection in a press release on August 24, 2016, at the 16th International Congress on Immunology (ICI) Conference, Melbourne, Australia.

These included Professor Jorge Kalil (Head of the Butantan Institute in Brazil and President of the International Union of Immunological Societies), Professor Giovanna Barba Spaeth, (Pasteur Institut and the French National Center for Scientific Research) and Professor Cameron Simmons (Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity).

Based on a collaboration with the Imperial College London and the University of Vienna, Austria, Professor Barbara commented on the potential for a DNA vaccine. “The DNA vaccine will provide protection against Zika and dengue viruses. The vaccine will be based on neutralizing antibodies to an epitope common to ZIKV and the four serotypes of dengue virus, results from basic research”, she explained.

The DNA vaccine will provide protection against Zika and dengue viruses. The vaccine will be based on neutralizing antibodies to an epitope common to ZIKV and the four serotypes of dengue virus results from basic research.

According to Prof. Barbara, these results can be applied in the diagnosis of newly ZIKV-infected pregnant women. Also, they can inform the development of immunotherapies for pregnant women, in whom it should be relatively safer and protect against infection, due to limitations in the detection of active immunity in this population subset.

In deference to the frozen type of vaccine developed for dengue virus by the National Institute of Health (NIH), inactivated vaccines are the consensual option, noted Prof. Kalil. Inactivated vaccines can withstand the cold chain storage system used in developing countries and pass through the regulatory process relatively quickly.

To fast-track clinical trials and eventual vaccine production, collaborations have started with the National Institute of Health (NIH), the University of Sao Paolo and vaccine producing companies. A look at the clinical trials repository, clinicaltrials.gov on August 25, 2016, shows two ongoing phase 1 trials on DNA vaccines for ZIKV which started in July 2016.

Prof. Cameron highlighted a vector control strategy using an intracellular bacteria, Wolbachia which makes the ZIKV vector (Aedes Aegypti species of mosquitoes), resistant to arboviral transmissions of Zika, Dengue, Yellow Fever, West Nile fever and, Chikungunya viruses. This strategy has been shown to be useful in three countries, now including Columbia, Brazil, and Australia.

In Vietnam and Indonesia, gold standard randomized control trials (RCTs) are expected to commence. The objective is to further evaluate its effectiveness in eliminating arbovirus transmission in these areas.

Globally, vector control in flooded areas, summer seasons, areas of overcrowding in addition to personal protective measures is encouraged. Mosquito based approaches or vector control such as heavy duty fogging, killing adult mosquitoes and finding breeding sites are also promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Supporting a need for continuous control, Prof Cameron concluded concerning Zika, “It’s so surprising, because it’s (Zika) causing these congenital infections at a frequency that we have never seen with other related viruses, and it’s a bit sexually transmitted, we don’t see that with other viruses.”

For updated information on events related to Zika virus infection, check the WHO and CDC websites. ​