The Zika virus is top of mind as the 2016 Summer Olympic Games get underway tomorrow in Rio. While once thought to be confined to limited areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, the virus has spread in recent months throughout much of South and Central America. And in just the last few weeks, researchers have identified the first instances of the virus being transmitted in the continental United States.
Although much remains unknown about this mosquito-borne illness, scientists have made great strides in recent months in understanding the complexities of the virus. Zika may cause relatively mild or even unnoticeable symptoms in those that contract the virus, but we now know that the virus causes significant birth defects when transmitted from a pregnant mom to her fetus, including microcephaly and other brain defects. While mosquitoes are the primary mechanism of transmission, scientists have also learned more about the various ways the virus can be transmitted, including through sexual contact.
Researchers around the world have been coming together to share insights and find ways to prevent the spread of and to treat the Zika virus. Biopharmaceutical companies are working in innovative partnerships and collaborations with organizations across the full research spectrum to develop novel vaccine options. Building on existing knowledge of related infectious diseases, including dengue fever and Chikungunya, researchers are exploring new biological pathways to halt the virus in its tracks. The development process for these emerging threats is fraught with unique challenges, as researchers work to keep up with the rapid pace of information flow and navigate complex clinical trial paradigms, but progress is being made. The first two clinical trials for Zika vaccines are now underway, with more candidates close behind.
The biopharmaceutical industry is committed to advancing the science and innovative therapeutic options for Zika and other complex infectious diseases. Learn more about current research and development efforts here.
Learn more about the Zika virus on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/
Emma Van Hook Emma Van Hook is a director of Policy & Research at PhRMA focusing on the promise of the biopharmaceutical pipeline, the value of medicines, the R&D process, and personalized medicine. Emma is a biology nerd at heart and has worked in both bench science and in regulatory affairs, helping to get new medicines through the development and FDA approval processes. In her free time, Emma likes to get outside the Beltway for running and hiking with her family and her dog Blue.