Zika test tube
Medical Research

A New Effort against the Zika Virus

A group of Mayo Clinic researchers will begin work on developing a vaccine to protect against the Zika virus, according to the medical facility.

“My team [the Vaccine Research Group] is starting on this immediately,” says Mayo vaccinologist Gregory Poland, M.D. “We will be collaborating with the Butantan Institute in Brazil and its director Jorge Kalil, M.D., Ph.D. They are the largest immunobiology lab in Latin America and produce 90 percent of the vaccines in Brazil.”

“We are very pleased to be working with Mayo Clinic on this urgent project,” Kalil said. “We hope to find an answer to this growing problem.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the virus, carried and spread by mosquitoes, is believed to have been the cause of an increased level of birth defects, specifically microcephaly – infants with smaller than normal heads – and Guillain-Barré syndrome. It was first reported in Brazil in 2015 and has spread to many countries in Latin America. It was previously active in Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. There is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus and no treatment for stemming potential birth defects once a woman has been infected.

According to the Mayo News Network, the facility’s Vaccine Research Group has been active in advancing discoveries in influenza, rubella, measles and smallpox. “My lab designed a way to identify the pieces of a virus that our immune cells respond to and develop immunity against,” Poland said. “We’ve done that with measles and smallpox. We’ll use that same platform to develop a zika vaccine.”

For more about health issues, visit www.mayoclinic.org.


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