DNA vaccines may be the next front in preventing infectious diseases, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Rather than growing viruses or bacteria in the lab to make a traditional vaccine, DNA vaccines rely on inserting viral or bacteria genes into synthetic DNA plasmids and delivering them to patients, sometimes with an electrical charge to get the plasmids into the patients' cells, the Journal says. The patients' own cells then make proteins that look like those of virus or bacteria to trigger the immune system to develop antibodies.
DNA vaccines had been investigated about a decade ago to combat West Nile virus, but that effort by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was shelved because there was little interest by any company to produce it, the Journal reports. But, with the Zika virus outbreak, that project was revived and re-made for the new viral threat and is now being testing in human trials, it adds.
Similarly, Inovio Pharmaceuticals also got to work on a DNA vaccine for Zika that it is now also testing in a trial, according to the Journal.
"The way we make vaccines now and what's on the horizon," Kayvon Modjarrad, an infectious disease researcher at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, says, "is very, very different from the way we've been making vaccines for the past 100 years."