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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 127
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Two major developments reported in zika fight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Researchers announced two major developments Tuesday in the battle against the zika virus.

One group of  researchers said that two vaccines being tested now on mice have proven to be extremely effective.

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers said that their work shows that a single zika infection provides later immunity. They tested the disease on monkeys.

Both research reports have been published in academic journals.

Dan Barouch, a professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard University and an infectious diseases specialist, said the two vaccines stimulate the production of immune system antibodies that protect mice from infection by the zika virus. One vaccine has been engineered from a single zika viral protein, and the other is a purified inactivated, or killed, virus, the same technology used to make the original polio vaccine, according to wire service reports.

Nelson Michael of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, a co-author of the article, said that the two vaccines are in production now, and researchers hope to begin human trials in October, the wire report said.

The team of University of Wisconsin and Duke University scientists have been working with infected monkeys for months. The studies have shown that one infection with zika virus protects against future infection, though pregnancy may drastically prolong the time the virus stays in the body, according to a report from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

David O’Connor, a professor, directed the research along with Emma Mohr, Matthew Aliota and Dawn Dudley, the university report said.

The research is good news for some coastal residents here. The Ministerio de Salud said that there are at least 107 reported cases of zika in the country, but about 8o percent of those who have the virus do not show symptoms. So the real total is much more.

If the University of Wisconsin research is correct for humans, these individuals will have immunity in the future.

That also happens with dengue, but the dengue virus is found in at least five different varieties, and immunity to one does not provide immunity to the others. In fact, infection by a different variety can be much more serious.

The Wisconsin researchers infected monkeys with the type of zika virus causing an epidemic that first became apparent in South America in 2015, and found that those monkeys resisted infection by the same zika strain 10 weeks later, said the university.

“This is good news for vaccine design,” O’Connor was quoted as saying. “It suggests the sort of immunity that occurs naturally is sufficient. If you can mimic that in a vaccine,

mosquiito
University of Wisconsin–Madison/Jeff Miller
A vacuum tube holds a blood-fed strain of Aedes aegypti in place under a microscope in a research lab.

you’ll likely have a very successful vaccine.”

But the university reported that their findings also uncovered a stark contrast in the length of infection of pregnant monkeys versus males and non-pregnant females. Though non-pregnant animals in the study were found to be free of zika virus within 10 days of infection, the virus persisted in the blood of pregnant monkeys for 30 days to 70 days.

Zika infection has been linked in pregnant women to microcephaly, which causes an abnormally small head, but a news story Monday questioned that.

The news story was based on research that pointed out that nearly all of the microcephaly cases were in Brazil and there were very few in Colombia where there also are many pregnant women with zika. The report suggested the cause might really be a pesticide.

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Tuesday after months of prodding majority Republicans to act on zika, Democrats banded together to defeat $1.1 billion in emergency funding. The measure needed three-fifths backing to advance, but it received just 52 votes in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats objected to what Republicans inserted into the legislation, including cuts to Planned Parenthood, a non-profit women’s health care organization and the nation’s largest provider of abortions, according to wire service reports.

The zika virus in Costa Rica hit the area around Jacó the hardest and even jeopardized the August World Surfing Games that are expected to bring in more than $30 million to the community. But residents have mobilized and are making efforts to reduce places where the zika mosquito breeds.

The Ministerio de Salud is coordinating another collection of trash and obsolete electronic gear today and Thursday at the Gollo store in Jacó from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Also participating are Holcim Costa Rica and Coopeservidores, as well as the resident group JacoZikaSafe.  Holcim and its subsidiary Geocycle said they will carry off any old tires that are collected to a plant in Cartago where they will be processed.

The latest statistics on zika, dengue and chikungunya infections are expected to be released later today.


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