Researchers At UM Miller School Of Medicine Make Zika Breakthrough

Miami-Dade mosquito control worker Carlos

Miami-Dade mosquito control worker Carlos

US researchers said Wednesday they had zeroed in on a trio of antibodies that completely prevented Zika virus infection in monkeys.

The GLS-5700 vaccine contains the synthetic DNA instructions for the host to learn how to mount an immune response against a specific Zika virus antigen.

Watkins and Dennis Burton, Ph.D., chairman and professor of the Department of Immunology & Microbiology at the Scripps Research Institute, led the collaborative global study, "Neutralizing Human Monoclonal Antibodies Prevents Zika Virus Infection in Macaques", published recently in Science Translational Medicine.

In 2015 and 2016, Zika virus spread rapidly through Brazil, the Caribbean, and the southern US. However, no approved vaccine or treatment is now available.

"Synthetic DNA vaccines, such as this Zika vaccine candidate our team has developed, are an important approach to preventing emerging infectious diseases", said David Weiner, Executive Vice President of The Wistar Institute in the U.S., and co-lead author of the study.

Researchers enrolled 40 participants in the safety trial between August and September a year ago.

Two groups of 20 participants received either one or two-milligram doses of the vaccine candidate intradermally at zero, four, and 12 weeks.

"They are more stable than most traditional vaccines, making them exceptionally practical to distribute during outbreaks, especially in regions where resources are limited and we need to be able to respond quickly to curb an emerging epidemic", he said.

Each dosage was followed by Cellectra delivery at the site, which generates small, directional electric currents into the skin to facilitate optimal vaccine uptake, production of the intended antigen, and immune responses. "This is a promising intervention to prevent and treat ZIKV infection during pregnancy", said David Watkins, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for research, Department of Pathology.

It's based on antibodies of people who have already been infected by the virus. The vaccine was also well tolerated.

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