A Brazilian biomedical center called the Bhutantan Institute will lead the charge on developing a vaccine for the mosquito-born Zika virus, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The country’s government announced on January 16 it would direct funds to the institute to help develop a vaccine “in record time” to combat the pathogen that is causing a rash of newborns to be born with defects like microcephaly, which causes unusually small heads and can prevent proper neural development.
Bhutanan Institute Director Jorge Kalil expects the vaccine development process to take 3 to 5 years, reports the AP.
Brazil is having a hard time containing the spread of Zika, writes The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). An estimated 1.5 million Brazilians may have contracted the disease, which is a little less than the 1.65 million citizens last year who contracted another mosquito-borne illness, Dengue fever. More than 3,500 cases of microcephaly have been reported.
Brazil is known as a hotbed for diseases delivered by mosquitoes, but the country’s deepening economic recession may have played a role in the surge of Zika cases.
The president of the nongovernmental organization, Society of Dengue and Arbovirus, Dr. Artur Timmerman, told WSJ that Brazil’s current economic difficulties weakened the country’s laboratory infrastructure and primary care services. Also, Dr. Timmerman said the government’s initial response to Zika was “was to overlook its importance” and say the bug was “a poor cousin of dengue, without much relevance.”
Global concern has risen after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against traveling to 14 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, but Reuters explains Brazil’s government isn’t concerned the threat of Zika will affect events like the upcoming 2016 Olympics.
City authorities across Brazil are educating residents about stagnated water where these mosquitoes thrive. Spokesperson Phillip Wilkinson for Rio 2016 told the publication organizers were following local and federal health officials’ guidance while the August weather (when the event will be held) would be a less suitable climate for the insects to thrive.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery