PITTSBURGH — Amid the growing surge of Zika research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has announced early success with two experimental vaccines that prevented the pups of immunized female mice from becoming infected with the virus.

Both vaccines, with one more effective than the other, succeeded in producing an immune response to the virus that was transferred from the mother to her pups.

That would represent an important goal in a human vaccine, given the severe neurological birth defects including microcephaly – an abnormally small head – and Guillan-Barre syndrome that the viral infection can cause.

The vaccines generate an immune response against a protein on the outer shell of the virus. One vaccine involved a standard injection. The other used crystals affixed to a patch similar to a Band-Aid to keep them in contact with the skin until they dissolved.

“We’ve not only developed a promising vaccine candidate to move toward larger pre-clinical and, eventually, human clinical trials, but also a delivery format that would be inexpensive to produce and distribute to hundreds of thousands of people,” said Andrea Gambotto, an associate professor of surgery at the medical school who was senior author of the study, published online Monday in the EBioMedicine journal.

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