Novel Zika vaccine shows promise in animal models

A potential Zika virus vaccine, developed by deleting part of the Zika genome that codes for the viral shell, was effective and safe in mice.


Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), US have developed a Zika vaccine technology that is highly effective and safe in pre-clinical mouse models. In a pregnant mouse model, the vaccine prevented both the pregnant mothers and the developing foetuses from developing systemic infection. 

“Engineering the vaccine involved deleting the part of the Zika genome that codes for the viral shell,” said Dr Vaithilingaraja Arumugaswami, Associate Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at UCLA. “This modification both stimulates an immunogenic reaction and prevents the virus from replicating and spreading from cell to cell.”

According to the study, as outlined in Microbiology Spectrum, the vaccinated mice showed elevated levels of cell-mediated immune response, in the form of increased effector T cell populations, as compared to mice that had not been vaccinated. The researchers also tested the vaccine in a variety of other mouse models, in which it proved safe and protective.

To date, no vaccines or other treatments have been approved for Zika virus. Nor have investigations into other ways of fighting the virus led to clearly effective countermeasures.

“But given that RNA viruses — the category to which both Zika and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) family of viruses belong — are highly prone to evolving and mutating rapidly, there will likely be more outbreaks in the near future,” said Arumugaswami. “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the power of a strong pandemic preparedness plan and clear communication about prevention methods – all culminating in the rapid rollout of safe and reliable vaccines… Our research is a crucial first step in developing an effective vaccination program that could curb the spread of Zika virus and prevent large-scale spread from occurring.” 

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