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Zika Vaccine Works in Monkeys, Set for Human Trials

It could hit shelves within three or four years, one researcher says.

On the eve of the Olympics' opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, there's good news on combating the Zika virus: a promising vaccine effective in monkeys and now being fast-tracked for human clinical trials.

A purified, inactivated Zika virus vaccine earlier found to work in mice is effective against Brazilian and Puerto Rican strains of the virus in monkeys, too, researchers from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Harvard Medical School reported in a study out on Thursday in the journal Science.

Phase 1 clinical testing of the vaccine, developed by the Walter Reed Institute, is expected to start in October.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly and has spread throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, prompting some top athletes to pull out of the Olympics. It appears to have spread to the mainland United States, too; officials believe several cases in Florida were transmitted by mosquitoes there.

In the study, the researchers gave eight control-group monkeys sham vaccines and an additional eight the inactivated-virus vaccine. They also transferred antibodies from the vaccinated monkeys to mice and other monkeys.

Within two weeks, the vaccinated monkeys developed Zika-specific antibodies capable of fighting the disease. Animals given sufficient levels of those monkeys' antibodies, or titers, were also protected, the researchers found.

Perhaps most striking, immunity required "relatively modest" titers, said co-senior author Dr. Dan Barouch, a...