Good News: Zika Virus Vaccine is Underway

February 2, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

It was only yesterday that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the Zika virus is an international public health emergency. Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of Sanofi, announced today that it has launched a vaccine development effort.

It was only yesterday that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the Zika virus is an international public health emergency. Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of Sanofi, announced today that it has launched a vaccine development effort.

What was once considered a rare mosquito-borne illness is getting closer and closer to home. The outbreak began in Brazil in May 2015 and has spread to nearly two dozen additional countries. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika at the moment, but Sanofi Pasteur hopes to change that.

“Our invaluable collaborations with scientific and public health experts, both globally and in the regions affected by the outbreaks of Zika virus, together with the mobilization of our best experts will expedite efforts to research and develop a vaccine for this disease,” John Shiver, PhD, global head of R&D for Sanofi Pasteur, said in a news release.

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The Zika virus is closely related to Dengue, another mosquito-borne virus that does not have a preventive vaccine. They belong to the same Flavivirus genus. Sanofi Pasteur recently introduced a vaccine against Dengue, Dengvaxia, and are hopeful that they can do the same for Zika.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has red flagged 24 countries on the travel alert list due to Zika. Pregnant women are especially advised to avoid unnecessary travel because of suspected birth defects. Microcephaly, a condition where an infant is born with smaller-than-normal brain and head size, is believed to be caused by Zika. Although not scientifically proven yet, a spike in microcephaly cases in Brazil, as well as one that occurred in Hawaii, is enough for officials to be concerned.

“In addition to the serious possibility of congenital complications associated with Zika, investigations are also underway to assess another reported connection between Zika and a dangerous neurological disorder,” explained Nicholas Jackson, PhD, global head of research for Sanofi Pasteur.

Officials warn that the Zika virus is expected to spread throughout the United States and travelers should be cautious when visiting countries with confirmed cases.

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