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Brazil aims for Zika vaccine in a year

Health officials expect to develop vaccine against Zika virus in about a year, after news that a third adult might have died as a result of the virus.

12 February 2016, 9:08am
Health officials in Brazil say they expect to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus in about a year, however a large-scale rollout would require an additional two years, international media report

Brazil is the hardest hit country by an outbreak of the virus that has been linked to a surge of brain malformations in newborn babies.

Health minister Marcelo Castro announced that Brazil would invest $1.9m in research for the vaccine over the next five years, partnering with scientists at the University of Texas.

“Researchers have agreed that the testing of the vaccine would happen simultaneously in mice and monkeys, and not separately, to speed up the process,” the BBC quotes him saying.

He added that a vaccine could be ready for distribution within three years.

Officials have also said that the death of a third adult in the country had possible links to Zika.

“Brazilian researchers found the virus in the body of a 20-year-old woman who died last April from respiratory problems in the north-eastern state of Rio Grande do Norte,” Castro said, adding that two other patients also died from complications while they were infected with the virus last year, before the outbreak had been discovered.

"We are still studying this in greater detail," Castro added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global public health emergency over the possible connection between Zika and microcephaly. Although the link between the condition, that can cause developmental problems in infants, with Zika has not been confirmed, the WHO and other public health bodies have said it is strongly suspected.

Brazil has seen more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly since October - a huge surge considering it had fewer than 150 cases in the whole of 2014.

Officials there believe as many as 1.5 million people could be infected by Zika.

The Zika outbreak has affected people in more than 20 countries in the Americas, with some governments advising women to delay getting pregnant, and already-pregnant women advised not to travel to the countries affected.

Cases of the virus have been found in European, Australian and US citizens returning from trips in the area, with the first case of a Maltese national with the virus being declared yesterday, but luckily, the virus, transmitted by infected mosquitos, has not spread throughout other continents.