Scientists in Manchester are to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus, which is suspected of causing babies to be born with under-developed brains. Doctors have described the virus as “a pandemic in progress”.
Last month, the World Health Organisation proclaimed the infection as a global public health emergency after a violent outbreak in the Americas. With Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the forthcoming 2016 Olympic games concerns over the virus have grew in recent weeks, as athletes and fans contemplate the perils and severity of it.
Health experts at The University of Manchester have said that they hope to deliver results within 18 months, after being awarded £178,000 in funding. The grant was announced after the UK government said that it would increase its funding from £1m to £3m, for rapid research into countering the virus, alongside a £1m commitment from the health charity Welcome Trust. Scientists in other countries are also working on the creation of possible Zika vaccines.
A University of Manchester spokesman stated that Manchester researchers hope to “test a vaccine based on a safe derivative of a pre-existing smallpox vaccine – the only disease to have been successfully globally eradicated”. Leader of the project, Dr Tom Blanchard, remarked “As we have seen in the case of Ebola, there is now a real need to act quickly to fast-spreading tropical diseases”.
Dr Blanchard also added that the Zika virus can cause serious illness, but “it often has no visible symptoms, so a vaccine for those at risk is one of the most effective ways of combating it”.
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