Good News to Thwart the Zika Scare!
Development of a vaccine to protect people against Zika virus may not be a far-fetched reality after all. Thanks to the new discoveries by the scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The scientists were able to identify antibodies capable of protecting against the Zika virus infection. Many say the new discovery is a significant step toward developing a vaccine and better diagnostic tests in the future.
This study was published July 27 in Cell.
Future Development of Vaccine Against Zika
The world may worry less about a massive Zika virus outbreak because the new discovery of antibodies should lead to development of a vaccine against the killer disease.
The researchers identified the precise spot on the virus that the antibodies recognized information which could be used to develop a vaccine against Zika.
Daved Fremont, PhD, a professor of pathology and immunology and a co-senior author on the paper said the antibodies are able to neutralize African, Asian and American strains of Zika virus to about the same degree as well. Furthermore, this is good news for all because a vaccine designed to elicit similar antibodies might be able to protect people from Zika strains globally.
The scientists have identified six antibodies that bound strongly to Zika virus. They used a technique called X-ray crystallography to zero in on the binding site. Then, they locked the virus and the antibodies into place together – or crystallized them – and visualized the adjacent structures by bouncing X-rays off them. The two most protective antibodies bound to the same region of the viral envelope protein that covers the surface of the virus.
“We think that this piece of the viral envelope protein alone would be able to elicit a protective immune response to Zika.” – Dr. Fremont
In addition, Fremont projected that the viral envelope protein could pave way to make a vaccine from an engineered viral protein and not the whole virus.
Some Considerations for Pregnant Women
There are some considerations to be addressed on vaccines given to pregnant women. Vaccines made from live, weakened viruses are common and effective. However, these kinds of vaccines are not recommended to pregnant women. In the case of Zika, a live-virus vaccine would be unusable, but a protein-based vaccine could be a lifesaver for pregnant women.