Vaccines protect fetuses from Zika infection, mouse study shows

Microsoft Google unite to fight against disease-carrying mosquitoes

Microsoft Google unite to fight against disease-carrying mosquitoes

A drug already in use to treat malaria and certain autoimmune diseases in pregnant women has shown promise in reducing transmission of Zika virus from mothers to their foetuses, according to a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher.

Scientists from Brazil's Evandro Chagas Institute, in the northern state of Para, have participated in the research, whose results were published by the specialised magazine "Cell".

Zika is particularly risky to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects.

Cases of microcephaly, or babies born with abnormally small heads, rose significantly in Brazil following the spread of the mosquito-borne virus.

"While several of these vaccine candidates have advanced to phase one clinical trials in humans, no study has established vaccine protection in the context of pregnancy", said the study, co-led by researchers from the University of Texas, Washington University and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). In Brazil's poor northeast - where Zika hit hardest - less than 25 percent of the population was connected to waste water systems in 2015, Human Rights Watch said, echoing statements from United Nations officials about who was most impacted by the virus. In developing a Zika vaccine, researchers are faced with the need for one that can provide fast and durable immunity with a good safety profile-with as few doses as possible to help streamline vaccination campaigns, especially in developing countries.

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Zika made global headlines when it was linked to an epidemic of babies born with microcephaly in Brazil. The second, which was developed at the University of Texas and contains a live, weakened form of Zika, is in animal trials. They found that both vaccines had elicited very high levels of neutralizing antibodies against Zika, while the placebos had not.

Next, researchers mated the female mice and infected them with Zika virus.

With both vaccines, fetuses and placentas from vaccinated mice contained very low levels of Zika's genetic material. As for those given the live vaccine, 78% of placentas and 83% of fetuses showed no trace of viral RNA.

"Testing of placental tissues from live births can continue to be considered when results of maternal Zika virus testing are not definitive or testing is not performed within the optimal time", the authors wrote.

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