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Zika Vaccine Protects Mouse Fetuses From Birth Defects

TIME Health
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There's promising news about two potential vaccines for Zika, a virus that can cause birth defects in the children of women infected during pregnancy. A new study published in the journal Cell finds that vaccinating pregnant mice against the Zika virus protected their fetuses from infection and birth defects. While the vaccine is still in early animal model testing stages, it's the first time a vaccine has been shown to protect a fetus.

In the study, researchers tested two different Zika vaccines under development. The female mice were vaccinated before they became pregnant and then were exposed to the virus while pregnant. There was very little evidence of the virus in the female mice, their placenta or their fetuses. Once the pregnant mice brought their fetuses to term, more than 90% of those who were vaccinated were born disease-free.

MORE: Do You Still Need to Worry About Zika?

It's still too early to say whether similar results might be seen among humans. But having a vaccine that could protect both mother and baby would be ideal to guard against the Zika virus.

“In the study, we were the first to show that two different potential vaccines given to the mother prevent the Zika virus from infecting the fetus during pregnancy in a mouse model,” said Pei-Yong Shi, senior author and professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in a statement. “Based on these data, we believe that evaluating the vaccines’ ability to prevent birth defects in humans is warranted.”

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