What is Zika?
Zika is a viral illness spread by mosquitoes commonly found in urban and peri-urban areas in the tropics and sub-tropics. In Africa it is an enzootic infection of nonhuman primates. The illness often spills over into human populations. In 2015, Zika spread to the Americas where it caused large epidemics and it was implicated as a of cause congenital neurological disorders, including microcephaly in infants.
What Causes Zika?
Zika virus is a flavivirus, like the viruses that cause dengue and yellow fever. Zika virus is transmitted among humans by Aedes mosquitoes, primarily Ae. aegypti mosquito, although Ae. albopictus could also play a role. Aedes aegypti are domestic, day-biting mosquitoes that are prevalent in the tropics across the globe. A female mosquito picks up the virus when feeding on a viremic human host. The virus must then infect the mosquito before she can transmit to a new, susceptible host several days later. Zika can also be transmitted through sexual contact.
What are the Symptoms of Zika?
Most people who are infected with the Zika virus do not have symptoms or they experience only mild symptoms, including fever, rash, arthralgia (joint pain), and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other symptoms can include myalgia (muscle pain) and headache. In some cases, Zika is associated with severe complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome (transient paralysis) and Congenital Zika Syndrome. Congenital Zika Syndrome occurs when the virus infects the fetus, causing microcephaly and other problems.
What are Trends in Zika Epidemiology?
Zika emerged in Brazil in 2015 to become a significant public health threat. The virus spread rapidly to more than 60 countries, including many in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Zika has also spread to the US and its territories, with locally acquired cases reported in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Most recently, Zika appeared in India. Over 2 billion people are considered to be at risk. Cases of Zika have been reported in travelers returning from affected areas.
PaxVax’s Zika Vaccine Pipeline
PaxVax is working on a candidate Virus-like Particle (VLP) vaccine to prevent Zika in partnership with the CDC. This program is in the pre-clinical stage of development.