Zika vaccines are developed for immunization & prevention against diseases caused by Zika virus. This virus belongs to genus Flavivirus and is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. The virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, sexual contact or from infected pregnant women to the fetus. Diagnosis of this infection is confirmed by detecting viral DNA through PCR. However, only 1 in 4 people with zika infection are prone to develop symptoms. In November 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that zika infection no longer constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as major cases of zika virus were asymptomatic.
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In April 2015, a major ongoing outbreak of Zika virus was registered in Brazil, which later affected the population in South and Central America. This outbreak caused mild illness (fever, rashes, joint pains, conjunctivitis, nausea, and muscle pain), though the recent outbreaks showed severe complications such as microcephaly, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and various congenital neurological abnormalities in infants who were born to infected mothers. The link between zika virus and microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome was identified and reported in 2015 in Brazil.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70 new zika virus infection cases were reported in the U.S. in 2015, which increased to 41,181 cases in 2016. Lack of reporting is a major factor for lower incidence rate in 2015. Increase in awareness can result in more diagnosis and reporting thus generating growth of the global zika vaccines market.
Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology found that the extract of San Francisco plant (Codiaeum variegatum) found in Australia, can kill the zika virus. This extract can arrest the virus and stop it from replicating without causing any damage to the host cells.
As of March 2016, 67 companies and research institutions were working on various kinds of R&D projects and clinical trials aided to develop effective vaccines against zika virus. The FDA approved the first human clinical trial for GLS–5700 in June 2016, a zika vaccine being developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals. Further in 2017, a grant was approved for phase 2 clinical trials for a DNA vaccine conducted by NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC).
Increasing awareness among the population would aid in controlling the incidence rate of zika infection. The WHO implemented a global framework for creating public awareness through its Zika Strategic Response Framework and Joint Plan in February 2016. This plan outlines all the points to be taken care of at the time of infections. In June 2016, WHO Regional Office for Europe developed a training curriculum to increase awareness by the publication of Zika Risk Assessment for European Region.
High investment costs required for R&D and the development of effective zika virus vaccines serves as a restraining factor for the global zika vaccines market.
While major of the Zika virus cases occur in tropical regions such as Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Suriname, there are higher chances of mosquito infections in tropical areas of the U.S. like Texas and Florida. According to Pan American Health Organization, around 1,246 suspected and confirmed cases were reported between epidemiological week (EW) 10 and EW 14 of 2016 in the sub region which involves Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador.
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Some key players operating in the zika vaccines market are Cerus Corporation, Biken Inc, GlaxoSmithKline plc, Bharat Biotech International Pvt. Ltd, GeneOne Life Science, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Immunovaccine Inc., NewLink Genetics Corp. and Sanofi S.A. The companies launched various R&D measures and clinical trials to attain immunogenicity against zika virus. In February 2016, Sanofi S.A launched a vaccine research and development project, with the introduction of Dengvaxia (Dengue vaccine) that will aid the company understand the Zika virus and develop an effective vaccine against it. Likewise, Inovio Pharmaceuticals initiated a clinical study of zika vaccine (GLS-5700) in Puerto Rico in August 2016. This trial may provide a potential push to Inovio’s vaccine if positive results are reported as there was a rapid progression of zika outbreak in Puerto Rico at that time. This could benefit the trial in assessing true efficacy and safety of the vaccine. Rapid progression in clinical trials and approval would augment the zika vaccines market growth.