SCIENTISTS in Spain have developed a vaccine for the deadly Zika virus, which still affects over 90 countries worldwide.
A study at Madrid’s National Centre for Biotechnology has developed the pioneering treatment, which has been proven capable of immunising mice.
There is currently no licensed vaccine for the virus, which can cause serious neurological conditions like microcephaly, where a baby’s head develops abnormally, making it smaller than usual.
Juan García-Arriaza and Mariano Esteban led the groundbreaking study, collaborating with a third scientist, Miguel Ángel Martín-Acebes.
“We have genetically engineered the prM and E genes of zika into a poxviral vector called modified Ankara vaccinia virus or MV,” said García-Arriaza.
The co-director of the work added: “These two genes of the virus give rise to the precursor protein of the membrane and the envelope of zika, respectively.”
Called MVA-ZIKV, the new vaccine has been developed using the same techniques for creating Ebola, Hepatitis C and HIV / AIDS medicines.
The two genes, which were described as ‘the most immunogenic proteins of the virus’ by García-Arriaza have been copied by the scientists in this research.
This means that the most ‘immune’ parts of the Zika virus can now be neutralised by the vaccine, which stimulates the body to produce ‘high levels of antibodies,’ according to Esteban.
Martín-Acebes said: “A single dose of this vaccine is able to control Zika virus infection in susceptible mice, effectively protecting against infection by the virus.”
Although no licenses have yet been granted for a Zika vaccine, this study opens the door for future research.