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Two new Zika vaccines 'show complete protection' in lab tests

Health workers fumigate in an attempt to eradicate the mosquito which transmits the Zika virus on January 28, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil.
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Health workers fumigate in an attempt to eradicate the mosquito which transmits the Zika virus on January 28, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil.

A group of researchers said Tuesday that vaccines for Zika offered protection against both Puerto Rican and Brazilian strains of the virus in mice.

The scientists working on the research came from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Harvard University.

"Our data demonstrate that a single dose of a DNA vaccine or a purified inactivated virus vaccine provides complete protection against the ZIKV-challenge in mice," said study author Dan H. Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a news release. "Importantly, we showed that vaccine-induced antibodies provided protection, similar to existing vaccines for other flaviviruses."

One of the vaccines was a DNA vaccine — an injection made up of genetically engineered cells based on a Brazilian strain of the virus. The other was a purified inactivated virus vaccine — a vaccine containing a "dead" or inactive virus — from Puerto Rico.

Both vaccines created antibodies in the bodies of mice.

The scientists published the results of their research Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

In a news release, scientists from Walter Reed said they will be ready to begin testing the vaccine on humans by the end of the year.

Flaviviruses are a group of viruses, often carried by mosquitoes and other insects, which are closely related and produce some of the same symptoms. Along with Zika, they include West Nile virus, dengue, yellow fever and others.

The virus has been widespread in several countries, especially in Latin America. Recent reports have confirmed that nearly 2,000 people have been infected with the virus in Puerto Rico, and Brazilian officials have linked 1,400 cases of microcephaly, a condition that stops brain development, in children born to infected mothers.

Other teams have been racing to develop vaccines for the virus.

Earlier in June, another group of researchers from pharmaceutical company Inovio was reportedly the first team to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin testing its vaccine on human subjects.

However, some public health experts have expressed skepticism that a vaccine for the drug will be able to pass regulatory tests in the next several years.

Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine told CNBC last week that he believes "we are not going to have a vaccine in time for this epidemic."

Correction: This version corrects the day the researchers announced their findings and the spelling of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.