What’s ahead for Zika research in 2017? | Science News


[music] Hi, I’m Meghan Rosen, and I’m a staff reporter at Science News. So, I cover everything from robots to dinosaurs, but this year I spent a lot of time focusing on the Zika virus outbreak. So this year we’ve learned a lot about how Zika virus can affect baby’s brain and body, but we don’t yet have a vaccine. So I want to tell you about two approaches to vaccine making that could have some interesting results in 2017. The first approach is being used by the Army at Walter Reed, and basically they’re making something called the Zika PIV vaccine. And so that stands for purified inactivated virus. And what you do here is grow up a big batch of Zika virus, and then you kill it with chemicals, and then you purify it, and that’s basically your vaccine. So it sounds pretty easy and it’s a classic way to make a vaccine — it goes all the way back to Jonas Salk and Polio. But there’s one big drawback, and that’s it can take a lot of time and money to grow up all the virus you need to make the vaccine. So another approach to making a vaccine for Zika virus is one that’s being used by the NIH. Instead of using a killed virus, they’re actually using something called a DNA-based vaccine. And so you use tiny snippets of DNA and they encode for Zika virus proteins. So this is considered a much faster way to make a vaccine, because you don’t have to grow up those huge batches of virus. But there’s one big caveat, the FDA has never approved a DNA-based vaccine in humans. Both kinds of vaccines have already started working their way through human safety trials. So I’m hoping that we see some results in 2017. I think the earliest we can expect to see a vaccine for Zika is in 2018 or 2019. Two or three years might seem like a long time to wait for a Zika vaccine, but in terms of vaccine development, it’s a really short timeline. Until 2015 Zika was considered a really obscure virus, so it’s been really interesting this year to follow the science and to learn something new everyday. [music]