Will a Zika Virus Vaccine Be Ready This Year?

A lead developer of the vaccine for the Zika virus—an affliction that has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil--says he believes a vaccine could be available for emergency use later this year.

That runs counter to what U.S, medical experts believe. They say that while there could be the first clinical trials of a treatment later this year, a vaccine safe for general use could still be several years away.

Canadian scientist Gary Kobinger, part of a consortium working on the vaccine, told Reuters that the first stage of testing on humans could begin as early as August. If successful, that may allow the vaccine to be used during a public health emergency, in October or November.

The mosquito-transmitted virus has been linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil. There currently is no proven vaccine or treatment for Zika, a close cousin of dengue and chikungunya, which causes mild fever and rash. An estimated 80 percent of people infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that Zika is spreading "explosively" and could affect as many as four million people in the Americas.

Kobinger is working with University of Pennsylvania scientist David Weiner, Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. and South Korea's GeneOne Life Science Inc. Joseph Kim, chief executive of Inovio, said the timeline to make the vaccine available by year's end is aggressive, but possible.

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Sourced from: Reuters Health , Zika vaccine may be ready for emergency use this year: developer