Zika vaccine Current Affairs - 2019
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The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has granted permission to Indian firm to conduct Phase-I clinical trials for a Zika vaccine. It was announced by Union Minister of State (MoS) for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey in Lok Sabha.
Zika Virus is vector borne diseases spread by Aedes egypti mosquito. Infections in pregnant women can cause children to be born with brain deficiencies (microcephaly) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Microcephaly is condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared Zika virus as Public Health Emergency of International Concern in February 2016, following an outbreak in Brazil and other Latin American countries and its association with birth defects in newborns. It was revoked in November 2016
The Indian firm had submitted an application along with non-clinical (animal) toxicity data, claiming 100% efficacy in animals to the DCGI to conduct Phase-I clinical trials of its Zika vaccine. Based on evaluation of application, in consultation with the Experts Committee, the DCG (I) has granted permission to conduct the Phase-I clinical trial. The Phase I trials ascertain safety, tolerability and physiological action of a compound inside the body.
Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI)
DCGI under gamut of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is responsible for approval of licenses of specified categories of drugs such as blood and blood products, vaccines, IV fluids and sera in India.
DCGI lays down standards and quality of manufacturing, selling, import and distribution of drugs in India. It acts as appellate authority in case of any dispute regarding quality of drugs. It prepares and maintains national reference standard. It brings about uniformity in enforcement of Drugs and Cosmetics Act. It trains Drug Analysts deputed by State Drug Control Laboratories and other Institutions.
Scientists from US have developed the world’s first plant-based Zika vaccine that may be more effective, safer and cheaper than other vaccines against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The vaccine was developed using proteins derived from Tobacco plant. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines or therapeutics available to combat Zika.
The plant-based Zika vaccine works against DIII, a part of a Zika viral protein that plays a key role for the virus to infect people. All flaviviruses have the envelope protein on the outside part of the virus. It has three domains. The domain III has a unique stretch of DNA for the Zika virus.
Researchers exploited domain III to generate a robust and protective immune response that is unique for Zika. First they had grown the envelope protein in bacteria then prepared the DIII protein domain in tobacco plants. The multiple immunisation experiments of the vaccine performed on mice shows 100% protection against multiple Zika virus strains in mice.
Significance: The plant protein-based vaccine uses smallest and most unique part of the Zika virus that can still elicit a potent and robust immune response. It produces a potent protective immune response against Zika Virus and also not produce antibodies that may be cross reactive for West Nile fever, Dengue, Yellow fever or others.
About Zika virus
Zika virus is vector borne disease transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same mosquito that transmits dengue, West Nile fever, Yellow fever. The virus has been named after Zika forest in Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947.
The virus is capable of causing serious birth defects i.e. neurological disorders and foetal deformation known as Microcephaly in which infants are born with abnormally smaller heads. Besides a possible link between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system) is also suspected. It is also found that, sexual transmission of Zika virus disease is possible.
The worldwide Zika threat first emerged in 2015, infecting millions in South America. The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the disease as epidemic and global health emergency but later revoked it after the outbreak was brought under control.