BUTANTAN INSTITUTE in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the world's leading research centre on the Zika virus. The institute is planning to develop a vaccine but has warned that it may take up to five years. British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline and French company Sanofi have said they are checking the feasibility of using existing technologies to limit to spread of the virus. There are several other vaccines for viruses of the same family, like dengue, being developed worldwide. Experts say that they may be helpful in containing Zika too.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Ltd has claimed to have made a vaccine. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) plans to invite them for more information, says ICMR Director General Soumya Swaminathan. Once the vaccine is approved, its trials on animals and humans will be done.
Some companies, such as the UK-based firm Oxitec Ltd, are also considering the use of genetic modification technologies for vectorcontrol to check the spread of the virus. The concept involves engineering male Aedesaegypti in such a way that the mosquito's offsprings die before reaching maturity. This has already been used commercially in Brazil in 2014. Oxitec ran trials of their genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in an area in Brazil where Zika is now particularly prevalent. This has now caused a controversy with some saying that the GM mosquitoes are now responsible for spreading the Zika virus. But others refute this."Without both data and a causal explanation, there is no evidence—or even plausible grounds for evidence—that the trials were in any way related to the outbreak," says Andrew D Maynard, Director, Risk Innovation Lab, Arizona State University, USA.