The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a clinical trial for an experimental Zika virus vaccine. On June 20, Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced that it has received FDA approval to launch phase I of clinical trials of a DNA-based vaccine.

According to a media release from Inovio, the Pennsylvania-based company will partner with the South Korea-based company Gene One. The trials will include 40 healthy human test subjects. Phase I trials have already begun and results are expected later this year. Experts have estimated that a Zika vaccine could be available for emergency use, especially for child-bearing-age women, in the next three to five years.

On July 6, Sanofi Pasteur announced a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) for the co-development of a potential Zika vaccine.

Sanofi Pasteur is the vaccines division of the French company Sanofi, one of the largest businesses in the world devoted entirely to human vaccines. They are responsible for creating vaccinations for 20 bacterial and viral diseases, distributing more than 1 billion doses across the world each year.

According to a media release from Sanofi, WRAIR will transfer its purified, inactivated Zika virus vaccine technology to Sanofi Pasteur. The company will then produce the clinical materials as well as the regulatory strategy for the vaccination.

Number of cases

As of July 6, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had received no reported mosquito-borne cases of Zika in the continental United States. However, more than 1,100 travel-associated cases have been reported, including 14 that were sexually transmitted.

The CDC also reported in its U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry that as of June 30, 320 pregnant women showed “laboratory evidence” of a possible Zika virus infection. This infection can cause babies to be born with microcephaly, a condition where the baby’s head is much smaller than expected. Babies born with microcephaly have smaller brains that have not developed properly.

The Pregnancy Registry is a collaboration between the CDC, state, tribal, local and territorial health departments to collect information about pregnancy and infant outcomes following laboratory evidence of the presence of Zika virus infection.

The CDC lists the following 10 states having the most reported travel-associated cases of Zika:

New York – 285

Florida – 206

California – 69

Texas – 53

New Jersey – 45

Massachusetts – 39

Pennsylvania – 35

Virginia – 33

Georgia – 29

Connecticut – 27

Prevention methods

Insect repellents and clothing covering traditionally exposed areas of skin (arms, legs, neck) are the primary ways to protect against mosquitoes. Insect repellents found to be the most effective include products with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol. The CDC has the following recommendations for applying repellents:

  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old
  • Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs
  • Cover crib, stroller and baby carrier with mosquito netting
  • Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth or cut/irritated skin
  • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face

In June, Consumer Reports rated these products as some of the most effective mosquito repellents:

  • Sawyer Picaridin(offers about 8 hours of protection)
  • Natrapel® 8 Hour(8 hours)
  • Off! Deep Woods® VIII(8 hours)
  • Ben’s® 30% DEET Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula(7.5 hours)
  • Repel® Plant-based Lemon Eucalyptus(7 hours)

Several products did not make Consumer Report’s list, including IR3535 and 2-Undecananone or products containing 7 percent DEET or less than 20 percent picaridin. The group also advised not using products made with natural plant oils. Several nature-based products ― containing citronella, lemongrass oil, cedar oil, geraniol, rosemary oil and cinnamon oil ― only provided protection for an hour, and many offered no protection at all.