By Jack Craver
The Zika virus
might be scaring most of us, but it’s exciting drug companies.
The World Health Organization reports that 15 pharmaceutical firms are engaged in a race to develop a vaccine to treat the mysterious illness that has left babies in Brazil disfigured and has pregnant women in Latin America and the United States worried.
A WHO official told the Wall Street Journal that it will be at least a year and a half before large-scale clinical trials can be underway. She was referring only to the two drugs that are considered as being in more advanced stages of development.
It’s tough to develop a vaccine for a disease that, until recently, had only been diagnosed a handful of times. The urgency to now address the problem may not pay dividends for many years to come, meaning that the solution for the current epidemic will most likely be educational efforts to make sure that those seeking to have children get tested before conception.
In trying to develop a vaccine for Zika
, researchers are largely working off their knowledge of Dengue, a related illness that is far more common.
The problem, however, is that the way that epidemics suddenly materialize and then vanish makes it very difficult to conduct long-term research on the illness. That has frustrated researchers on Ebola
, for instance.
The biggest problem may be that testing the effect of a Zika vaccine would mean testing it on pregnant women. Regulators and women themselves will likely be uncomfortable with the idea of subjecting women to a vaccine that might harm the fetus.
“I would imagine you would not want to give pregnant women the vaccine for a long time,” Michael Farzan, a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute, told the Journal. “Some of the properties of the vaccine are those of the virus, so they can create some harm.”
Originally posted on BenefitsPro.com