Health In Focus
  • Synthetic DNA vaccine developed for protection against Zika was tested on susceptible animal models and was found to offer protection.
  • The vaccine prevented the entry of the virus into regions of the brain, leading to protection against brain damage and death.
  • The vaccine raises hope of controlling the spread of the disease

Zika is a dreaded disease that has raised International concern and gathered support for continued research into possible solutions. This disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, leads to microcephaly in infants.

There is plenty of research that is being undertaken to identify a possible vaccine that will aid in preventing further spread of the disease. A new study has found that the use of synthetic DNA affords protection against Zika infection, brain damage and death.
Zika Brain Damage and Death Prevented by DNA-Based Vaccine

Hundred animal models were injected with this synthetic DNA Zika vaccine and were tested for the protection they offered by infecting the animals with Zika. All the animals were protected from the infection while the animals that were not vaccinated developed the disease condition.

Protection of the Brain

Animals that were vaccinated with the DNA vaccine for Zika were protected from damage to the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus region of the brain. The animals which did not receive the vaccine showed signs of degeneration in the same regions of the brain.

Lead researcher Dr David Weibner who is The E.V.P and Director of the The Wistar Institute's Vaccine Center, said, "Our results support the critical importance of immune responses for both preventing infection as well as ameliorating disease caused by the Zika virus. As the threat of Zika continues, these results provide insight into a new aspect of the possibly protective ability of such a vaccine as a preventative approach for Zika infection."

Landmark Study- Significance of the study

The DNA vaccine that had been developed for Zika virus is a landmark study as it raises hopes about possible means of protection against this widespread disease. Another interesting factors associated with this study is that this is the first time that a vaccine is used on animal models that are susceptible to Zika. Previous studies have always used animal models that were resistant to the virus for their studies.

The ability of the newly developed DNA vaccine to protect animal models that were susceptible to disease is a concrete step towards better protection against Zika virus.

Antibody Generation-In Vivo Studies

In Vivo studies showed that the synthetic DNA vaccine expressed specific antigens for Zika.
  • This generated specific antibodies as well as T cells, which were identified in preclinical animal models.
  • Protection against the disease in animals models
  • Death was thereby avoided
  • The disease was unable to develop in the brain, vaccine was therefore neuroprotective

The significance of this disease is of specific importance among newborns where microcephaly, a form of brain disorder in infants, may be avoided.


Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus which is transmitted by mosquito vector Aedes Sp. This disease is characterized by fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. In infants, it is known to cause microcephaly.

It was first identified in Uganda in 1947 but is of Global significance now.  Recently, it has been found that women are affected in large numbers in Puerto Rico, pointing towards a sexual transmission of this disease condition. More than 300,000 people are affected with Zika in this region.

There is no known vaccine that is prescribed for Zika and preventing mosquito bites have been the most practiced method of protection. Mosquito sprays, repellents and the use of nets are encouraged to keep mosquitoes away. People have been advised against traveling to Zika-prone areas, especially when pregnant.

The development of a good DNA vaccine that will offer the required amount of protection against the virus is paramount to preventing further spread of the disease and aid in curbing the health effects caused due to the disease.

References :
  1. DNA-Based Zika Vaccine Showed Protection From Infection, Brain Damage And Death - (
  2. Zika & Pregnancy Virus - (
  3. Zika virus - (
Source: Medindia

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