Scientists have found two potential vaccine candidates that may help combat the Zika virus. A single shot of each vaccine was shown to completely protect mice against two strains of the mosquito-borne disease, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. These shots still need to be tested on humans, but the researchers are hopeful that either could eventually prove to be a safe and effective Zika vaccine.
"These two vaccine candidates both provided complete protection against Zika virus challenge in mice," said study author Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of Zika virus vaccine protection in an animal model. The protection was striking."
The two vaccines protect the body in different ways. One involves injecting specialized DNA sequences into the body, while the other works by injecting an inactive form of the Zika virus. However, both triggered the same response in mice: they caused the rodents to produce antibodies that target specific proteins in the virus. This gave the mice complete protection when exposed to a Brazilian strain and a Puerto Rican strain of Zika. The mechanism is similar to how some working vaccines combat other types of flavivirus — the family of mosquito-borne viruses that includes Zika.