As the number of Zika cases continues to rise in the U.S., researchers at the National Institutes of Health are launching a clinical trial of a vaccine meant to ward off the virus and prevent serious complications in infants.
The NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will run an early-stage study of the investigational DNA vaccine for Zika at three study sites in the U.S., including its Bethesda, MD-based clinical center. Researchers plan to enroll at least 80 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18-35, the NIAID announced Wednesday.
Ultimately, the trial will show whether the vaccine is safe and can trigger an immune system response in subjects, the NIH said in a statement. The hope is that the jab could stop the virus from spreading and prevent microcephaly, a birth defect that causes small head size in infants born to mothers with Zika.
The trial responds to a growing healthcare problem. More than 50 countries and territories have reported Zika transmission, according to CDC numbers cited by the NIH. In the U.S., at least 6,400 cases were reported.
“A safe and effective vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection and the devastating birth defects it causes is a public health imperative,” NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said in a statement.
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