The University of Miami is about to launch the first trial for the Zika virus vaccine. It is one of the first DNA vaccines against the virus promoted by the National Institutes of Health. Since Miami is a high-risk area of pandemic, experimentation in the area will be crucial. The first goals are to determine the safety and dosage of the vaccine.
The first phase involves recruiting individuals from Miami who will receive several vaccine doses to test their safety. The participants will be 90 men and women between the ages of 18 and 35. Women should not be pregnant. The second phase of trials will serve to determine the efficacy of the vaccine. It will involve 2,400 individuals never infected with the Zika virus, who live in areas with high risk of contagion. Half of them will receive the vaccine, half the placebo.
NIAID's Vaccine Research Center (VRC) researchers have developed a DNA vaccine. The strategy is the same as that used for the West Nile fever vaccine. The vaccine contains a double-helix DNA molecule, within which there are genes encoding two viral proteins. Once injected into the muscle, the proteins create false Zika viruses, which trigger the immune response of the body. As the infectious material is completely missing, the risk of infection is null and total protection should be obtained.
The trials have a wide-ranging study on animal models that the vaccine would be safe and able to neutralize the virus. However, it is necessary to ascertain whether this also applies to humans. Phase Two participants will be followed for almost 2 years, so as to check for any possible infection or adverse reactions.