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25 April 2024

Indian firm ready with first Zika vaccine

By Wam

Vaccines manufacturer Bharat Biotech of India announced a breakthrough in developing the world’s first Zika vaccine. The Hyderabad-based company has submitted two vaccine candidates - one inactivated and one recombinant - to the Indian government, India's local media reported.

Dr. Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director of the company, told The Hindu newspaper on Wednesday that one of the two candidates is in an advanced stage of development and can be ready soon.

"In the coming two weeks, we will be able to start animal tests in one of the two candidates. Since this is a pandemic situation, we are hoping that the Indian government will move quickly of giving requisite approvals for the trials," said Dr Ella.  

The World Health Organisation declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency on Monday, a rare move that signals the seriousness of the outbreak and gives countries new tools to fight it.

Pre-clinical studies will be concluded by Bharat Biotech in the next five months, after which the process for regulatory approval will commence.

An inactivated vaccine is when the disease-causing microbe is killed, typically, using chemicals, heat, or radiation. Such a vaccine is more stable and safer than live vaccines.

A recombinant vaccine is a vaccine produced through recombinant DNA technology. This involves inserting the DNA encoding an antigen (such as a bacterial surface protein) that stimulates an immune response.

Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system with a weaker version of the disease, and thus preparing the body to defend attacks by the real contagion. Bharat Biotech’s has two vaccine candidates.

Zika is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, which also transmits other diseases like dengue and chikungunya.  

Microcephaly in the newborn and other neurological syndromes (Guillain Barre Syndrome) have been found temporally associated with Zika virus infection.