Brazil and University of Texas Reach Deal on Zika Virus

WTOP/AP, 02/11/2016

Brazil is signing an agreement with the University of Texas to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus, the country’s health minister said Thursday, adding the goal is for the vaccine to be ready for clinical testing within 12 months.

Marcelo Castro said at a news conference that the Brazilian government will invest $1.9 million in the research, which will be jointly conducted by the University of Texas and the Evandro Chagas Institute in the Amazonian city of Belem.

He said the Health Ministry also has reached vaccine partnerships with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is looking to work with pharmaceutical giant GSK.

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As Zika Spreads, an Unexpeceted Winner in Brazil’s Mosquito War

Anna Edgerton – Bloomberg Business, 02/10/2016

Zika is a rarity in Brazil: a crisis that isn’t widely blamed on Dilma Rousseff’s government. And a mobilization against mosquitoes may even help the president climb out of a political hole.

In the northeastern town of Limoeiro, corruption scandals and a deepening recession have eroded support for Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. But the town in Pernambuco state is also at the center of Brazil’s viral epidemic. Glecya Aparecida Fernandes de Melo, a local lab technician whose whole family has fallen ill, says people there are signing up for government initiatives to combat the disease, rather than blaming politicians or organizing protests.

“We need to put aside this political bickering and be more united in the education campaign, or else this outbreak will get worse,” Fernandes said. “We have to take back our city from the mosquito.”

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Brazilian Studies Aim to Unravel Zika’s Link to Birth Defect

Julie Steenhuysen – Reuters, 02/09/2016

At Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil, Dr. Antonio Almeida and a team of specialists are closely following two groups of women: Those who deliver babies with abnormally small heads and those who deliver apparently normal babies.

The hospital is one of three in this city on Brazil’s eastern coast where investigators are studying the most urgent question of the Zika outbreak: Is the virus causing a spike in birth defects, and, if so, how great is the risk?

The answer will help shape the response to the rapid spread of Zika throughout the Americas. Concerns over the potential link to microcephaly have prompted a U.S. alert advising pregnant women against travel to 31 countries and territories with outbreaks.

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The World Needs a Zika Vaccine

Helen Branswell – STAT, 01/29/2016

When public health official briefed President Barack Obama about the alarming and rapidly evolving Zika virus situation this week, the message that emerged from Washington was clear: The world needs a vaccine.

The same message has emerged from the World Health Organization, which announced Thursday that it would be convening an emergency committee of outside experts to advise it on the extraordinary outbreak “spreading explosively” through the Americas.

“The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty. Questions abound,” WHO’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, announced during a special session on Zika in Geneva. “We need to get some answers quickly.”

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