The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will soon undertake trials of the indigenously developed vaccine against Zika virus, cases of which have been reported in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
The ICMR will undertake phase-II trial of the vaccine to establish the efficacy and safety of the vaccine along with its adverse effects, a senior official said.
Vaccines manufacturer, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, has developed a vaccine, which they claim will provide protection against infection caused by an Asian Zika virus strain as well as by the African Zika virus strain, the official said.
“The company had developed the vaccine around two years ago. At that time we did not have an outbreak of Zika in India as it was only restricted to Latin America. Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito and also there is a breakout in some states. Vector control is one of the most challenging work. Thus the vaccine, if its efficacy is proved, is a better strategy,” the official said.
The process for regulatory approvals to carry out the trial will be initiated soon, he informed. Two persons, who tested positive for the Zika virus, died in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal district while the number of people suffering from the disease has crossed 120 in the state. The deceased — an 18-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman — were suffering from the virus and other “serious” diseases. Therefore, it cannot be said they died due to Zika , officials had clarified.
The virus has infected 127 people, out of which 40 are pregnant women, the officials said.
People have tested positive for the Zika virus in seven districts of Madhya Pradesh. This includes 44 cases reported from Bhopal, 20 from Sehore, 29 from Vidisha, two each from Sagar and Hoshangabad, and one each from Narsinghpur and Raisen.
A central team is reviewing the situation and assisting the Madhya Pradesh government to replicate measures and the action plan implemented in Jaipur and Ahmedabad to contain the disease, the senior official said. Rajasthan has reported 159 cases of Zika infections.
In India, the first outbreak of the Zika virus was reported in Ahmedabad in January 2017 and the second in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district in July that year. Both these outbreaks were successfully contained through intensive surveillance and vector management.
During the latest outbreak of the virus in the country, the first case surfaced on September 22, when an 85-year-old woman tested positive for the virus in Jaipur. Since then, the number of Zika cases have risen to 153 in Rajasthan.
In Madhya Pradesh an intensive screening exercise is being undertaken and vector control measures have been intensified. The government has also issued an advisory to district administrations to take steps to check mosquito breeding.
The state health department has advised pregnant women not to visit the affected areas.
The Zika virus, transmitted through the aedes aegypti mosquito, causes fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain. It is harmful for pregnant women, as the mother can pass the infection to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth leading to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than normal.
The disease is under surveillance of the Union Health Ministry although it is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under the WHO notification.