[In August 2016], scientists injected a [DNA] vaccine for Zika virus into a human being…Unlike some traditional methods, DNA vaccines don’t use dead or weakened viruses. Instead, they rely on a snippet of genetic material. This “naked” DNA carries, for example, the blueprints for Zika proteins.
With DNA vaccines, “it’s easy to move very quickly,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “All you need to do is get the right sequence, and Bingo! — you’re there.”
But even if the vaccine eventually ends up in clinics, ensuring that patients come back for multiple doses won’t be easy, says University of Pennsylvania immunologist Drew Weissman.
Weissman and colleagues at the infectious diseases institute and elsewhere are working on a different kind of vaccine that could make multiple doses moot. Like the DNA vaccine for Zika, Weissman’s uses genetic material. But instead of DNA, his vaccine relies on modified versions of messenger RNA….
But the race to make a Zika vaccine probably won’t come down to just one winner, he says. Having several kinds of vaccines in play would give public health officials flexibility: more weapons to fight the virus and an opportunity to tailor the response to different populations.
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