About 20 private companies and universities are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to scale up production of an experimental vaccine to vaccinate babies born after exposure to the Zika virus, according to documents released by the National Institutes of Health on Wednesday.
The findings from the Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are planned to be published in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology.
The goal is to increase the number of doses currently available to the total U.S. population from the 1 million currently held. “As the nation’s efforts to address Zika continue, encouraging more health care providers to have this option available to their patients will contribute to achieving the goal of having the U.S. fully prepared for a Zika outbreak,” states a summary of the experiments released by the NIH.
The vaccine currently is licensed in 37 countries to increase the likelihood of the vaccine working and protecting against pregnancy complications, like microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads and brains.
The Department of Agriculture used $42 million in chickenpox vaccines to expand production of the vaccine to resist the Zika virus. In addition to testing the effectiveness of the vaccine on chickens, the project also tested it on ants. The group found that that the malaria vaccine weakened the insects for 10 days, providing proof that it is able to be used in conjunction with the old mosquito vaccine, dubbed DDT, to increase its protection.
The next step is to test the protection in humans, which will begin after June.