Advances in Zika Virus Research and Vaccine Development


The FDA has announced a new research model that may expedite research and development for a Zika virus vaccine.

Although potential Zika virus vaccine candidates have shown promise in their early stages, emerging cases of the virus spreading throughout the United States have created urgency for the development of vaccination and therapeutic options. Luckily, the FDA has announced a new mouse model that may help in expediting the process.

Published in PLoS Pathogens, the neonatal mouse model created by FDA scientists indicates the capability to examine the pathology of the Zika virus and the potential activity of vaccines and therapeutics. The model will allow a better understanding of the impact and long-term effects of the virus in mice, which may help in efforts to combat the infection in humans.

The new animal model uses the C57BL/6 mouse strain, to which neonatal mice are susceptible; they then develop neurological symptoms 12 days after infection. The model provides an opportunity to study the long-term effects of the Zika virus on mice, and it establishes a platform for scientists to evaluate experimental vaccines and therapeutics. Previous research using mouse models have found that only mice with compromised immune systems are susceptible to the virus, but the FDA’s new study indicates that neonatal mice with healthy immune systems are susceptible as well.

“This mouse model gives researchers a new tool to study and understand how the Zika virus replicates and spreads in the body, which we hope will provide these critical answers,” said Daniela Verthelyi, the FDA’s chief of the Laboratory of Immunology, in a press release.

The FDA has taken far-reaching measures in the effort to combat the Zika virus through a number of comprehensive projects dedicated to understanding the cause and effects of the virus. In addition to their research efforts, the FDA is working to rapidly respond to emerging Zika virus outbreaks. Some of the FDA’s initiatives include protecting the safety of the United States’ supply of blood and human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products, as well as encouraging speedy development of diagnostic tests for clinicians and evaluating any investigational vaccines.

“Helping to advance the approaches scientists can use to understand the Zika virus will ultimately assist in speeding the development and availability of the tools needed to combat it,” said Luciana Borio, MD, the FDA’s Acting Chief Scientist, in a press release.

The FDA hopes the new animal model will quicken the process of finding a means to stymie Zika virus outbreaks and reduce the amount of associated complications that occur as a result of the infection.

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