A ground-breaking trial of a new Zika vaccine has started, with the first participant receiving the dose at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, in conjunction with ongoing research at the universities of Liverpool and Manchester.
The work aims to find a vaccine that will protect current and future generations of people against the devasting effects of the Zika virus. The vaccine has been successfully tested on animals, and the next stage of the trials, the first to involve humans, is expected to provide a breakthrough in fighting the Zika virus.
There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments available for the Zika virus, and it is hoped that this vaccine, designed to be suitable for use in pregnancy, will generate a high level of long-lasting immunity in countries where infection risk is high. Pregnant women are at the highest risk of infection because the virus can cause severe foetal birth defects.
Since 2016, when the Zika virus peaked, scientists have been working on a vaccine that could offer protection against infection. Healthy volunteers are currently being recruited for the trial, with the aim being to test the vaccine on up to 40 individuals over the next nine months.
Each participant will receive two doses of the vaccine, which will be evaluated for its safety, tolerability and ability to produce an immune response. The vaccine will be assessed in groups of four volunteers at a time, with numbers increasing as evidence of safety accumulates.
The vaccine’s performance will also be evaluated in people who have had exposure to other viruses that circulate where the Zika virus is found, such as dengue virus or yellow fever.
Dr Krishanthi Subramaniam, a research fellow at the University of Liverpool, warned that risks posed by the Zika virus remained high.
She said: ‘Zika should not be forgotten, especially since climate change is contributing to the spread of the mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus to countries where immunity is not there. Vaccines like ours will enable us to be better prepared for the next Zika outbreak.’
She added: ‘The pandemic taught and continues to teach us that infectious diseases are a global issue, but with the help of vaccines, we can make great strides in keeping everyone safe.’
This trial is open to healthy individuals aged between 18-59, with all participants reimbursed for their inconvenience and travel costs. Those interested in participating can text ZIKA to 07342065915 for more info or email [email protected].