Human trials for a new vaccine against the Zika virus were launched by the US Army scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) Clinical Trial Centre in Maryland on Monday. The current trials are the first of five planned ones in the study.
The new vaccine is called the Zika Purified Inactivated Virus (ZPIV) and is meant to generate an immune system response and produce antibodies against the virus, according to a press release by the National Institutes of Health. It uses a more traditional design compared to other vaccines for Zika virus that are being tested, which use genetically engineered DNA.
The ZPIV vaccine is similar to a vaccine that proved successful against Japanese encephalitis, which belongs to the same group of viruses as the Zika virus, called flavivirus. “With Zika we got lucky because we had a lot of experience, research and data … that we could then use and translate over into Zika”, said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad of WRAIR, as reported by the Miami Herald.
The ZPIV vaccine was developed earlier this year and tested on rhesus monkeys. After provoking an immune system response in the monkeys during preclinical studies, it was advanced to human trials. 75 healthy human adult volunteers have been recruited for the trials.
According to the Miami Herald, five different trials have been scheduled for the ZPIV vaccine. These trials have been designed to test optimal doses, the safety and efficiency of the vaccine when administered in a short period of time, its capacity to circumvent the virus in those people who have been already been exposed to it and other flaviviruses. The last trial will evaluate its effectiveness when used with the other DNA based vaccine candidates. The trials will also include people who have already been vaccinated against other flaviviruses, such as dengue, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.
The vaccine is predicted to be publicly available in the next two to three years.