With the global concern appearing to rise almost daily, how long it will take to produce a vaccine to fight the Zika virus?
The World Health Organization recently declared it a global emergency
The mosquito-borne disease is similar to dengue and yellow fever, for which vaccines already exist or are being developed.
According to doctor Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a vaccine is still years away:
“The good news is that Zika is what we called a flavi virus a certain class of viruses and we have successfully developed vaccines against flavi viruses,” he said.
“If it looks like it’s safe we’ll go to the next stage. Unlikely to have a vaccine that’s widely available for a few years, but we certainly can get the initial steps.”
Zika is not deadly but is suspected of causing serious brain damage in thousand of infants through Latin America.
At the Butantan Institute of Sao Paulo researchers hope to find a faster way to get a vaccine.
Jorge Kalil, head the the state-run institute, says: “We are already cultivating the virus in sufficient amounts to run the initial tests on small animals, such as rodents, to then pass on to horses.
“We’ll then observe if the horses are able to develop neutralising antibodies in larger quantities against the virus.
“Later [we will] be able to purify it in our laboratories to isolate the antibodies before starting the tests [on humans].”
The Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences has joined the rush for a vaccine but researchers say it wont be easy.
Colonel Louis Macareo MD, Department of Virology US Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “Development of vaccine is a very long tedious and arduous process to demonstrate both efficacy as well as safety, and it will be premature right now to actually give hard predictions on how long that will take.”
Among the anti Zika strategies, the WHO has underlined the need of better diagnostic tests.
At present, the best and only form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.