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HomeMedicineVaccines and ImmunizationCould a Zika vaccine protect infants from Zika syndrome?

Could a Zika vaccine protect infants from Zika syndrome?

Researchers recently studied the effects of a Zika vaccine in pregnant mice and their pups.

Approximately ten percent of all infants in the United States infected with the Zika virus are born with birth defects. The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that was first detected in primates in the 1940s. The main birth defect associated with the Zika virus is microcephaly, a condition where the infant is born with a smaller than normal brain.

Researchers have developed vaccines against the Zika virus, but have not studied whether administering a Zika vaccine to the mother during pregnancy would protect the fetus, whether pregnancy would affect the way the mother’s body responds to the vaccine, and whether pregnancy would require higher levels of vaccine to protect the fetus.

To answer these questions, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston performed a United States study on the Zika vaccine. Their results were published in Nature Communications.

The researchers studied the safety of the vaccine when mice were immunized early and midway through their pregnancies. When the mice were vaccinated early in their pregnancies, their pups did not show Zika infection. For those mice vaccinated midway through their pregnancy, the pups did not show Zika infection. However, the results did suggest that the vaccine needed sufficient time for the mice to develop antibodies that could be transferred to the pup.

Researchers also studied the behavior of pups of vaccinated mice. The pups from the Zika vaccine mice were unchanged from normal mice pups. Their body weight, body length, and other behaviors.

Additionally, the researchers found their vaccine was very safe with no adverse events during pregnancy. They found that pregnancy made the mice’s immune response weaker, meaning a higher dose of the vaccine or stronger vaccine may be needed during pregnancy.

Researchers note that development of Zika vaccine should continue in multiple platforms to ensure there are plenty of options for preventing the Zika virus. They also note that there are significant differences in the way humans transfer antibodies to their fetus during pregnancy when compared to mice.


Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship



  1. Shan, C., Xie, X., Luo, H. et al. Maternal vaccination and protective immunity against Zika virus vertical transmission. Nat Commun 10, 5677 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41467-019-13589-1
  2. Data & Statistics on Zika and Pregnancy | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published 2019. Accessed December 14, 2019.

Image by mika mamy from Pixabay

Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship is a freelance technical writer. She reviews, edits, and authors internal quality documentation required for regulatory compliance. She has twenty years experience in industrial pharma/medical device quality management systems and an honors BSc in chemistry. She is a natural born rule follower and enjoys applying this strength to help others be audit ready to meet regulatory requirements. She also loves learning about the latest scientific discoveries while writing for Medical News Bulletin. Her free time is spent as a full-time mom, encouraging can-do attitudes and cooperation in her three children.


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