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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Challenges to develop a Zika vaccine: 10/31/2016

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health - a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM - that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

There are several challenges to develop and test a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, finds a timely perspective recently published in Science.

The perspective's two authors note the clinical trials to find a Zika preventive vaccine present novel ethical quandaries, such as whether it is appropriate to give a placebo to a female trial participant, who might be exposed to the virus by a mosquito or partner during the time a trial is underway.

The authors explain Zika has some characteristics that distinguish it from other recent, significant infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola. For example, the authors note the Zika virus' infection is mild or asymptomatic in most patients. Conversely they write Zika is (and we quote): 'severe in a few, causing congenital malformations in the fetuses of some women infected during pregnancy' (end of quote).

The authors suggest the extensive differences in patient response create unique challenges to decide what outcome or outcomes are most relevant to pinpoint the efficacy of a Zika vaccine?

Among current, pressing information gaps about the Zika virus, the authors write (and we quote): 'We do not yet know how much a mild or asymptomatic infection contributes to transmission or whether it could harm fetuses if it occurs in a pregnant woman' (end of quote).

When a virus' triggering impact is not understood, the authors explain the usual strategy to deliberately infect some trial participants (with tiny doses of the disease in order to build immunity) may (or may not) be more problematic than infectious diseases where diffusion is well established.

In addition, the authors ask where should Zika clinical trials take place? The authors explain the latter decision is not simple, since the virus' spread may or may not be linked to mosquito seasonality. They write (and we quote): "This may necessitate planning trials in multiple sites and activating them rapidly where incidence resurges' (end of quote).

The authors imply the latter type of clinical trial planning is unusual and difficult to implement.

The authors conclude the current challenges to develop and assess a Zika vaccine provide a reminder (and we quote): 'of the need to enhance our preparedness to develop and approve vaccines for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, an overview of what is known about the Zika virus (from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is available within the 'resources' section of MedlinePlus.gov's Zika health topic page.

The Pan American Health Organization answers frequently asked questions about the Zika infection and fever also within the 'resources' section of MedlinePlus.gov's Zika health topic page.

The World Health Organization helps dispel rumors about Zika and its complications additionally within the 'resources' section of MedlinePlus.gov's Zika health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's Zika health topic page provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available within the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about Zika as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's Zika health topic page, please type 'Zika' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'Zika virus (National Library of Medicine).'

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