February 4th, 2016
In a breakthrough discovery Bharat Biotech, a vaccine and bio- therapeutic products manufacturer based out of Hyderabad, has claimed to have created the vaccine to combat the rapidly spreading Zika virus outbreak. Zika virus is named after Zika forest of Uganda where it was first identified in Rhesus monkeys in 1947. The virus has recently made headlines all over the world as it is spreading rapidly and has reportedly no vaccines to combat it.
The Impending Threat
The virus is transmitted by the Aedes Aegipti mosquito family which causes a mild fever known as Zika fever. The virus has been found to be showing the same symptoms as those caused by Dengue fever and is treated only by taking rest. In the 1950’s the virus was confined to the equatorial belt of Africa and Asia. But since then it has spread to various other regions and as of today has reached pandemic levels. According to World Health Organization, the virus is ‘spreading explosively’ and will infect 4 million people by the end of the year. In Brazil, the virus has been linked to children being born with small heads or microcephaly, but the diagnosis about that has been inconclusive. The virus has been reported in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. A cluster of infections similar to what occurred in Brazil was also reported in French Polynesia in 2014. Most recently in Texas, the USA the first infection transmitted through sex has been reported.
The Importance Of ‘Zikavac’
Bharat Biotech CMD Krishna Ella said, “We believe we have an early mover advantage in developing the Zikavac and we are probably the first in the world to file for a global patent for Zika vaccine candidates. We have two candidate vaccines in development. One of them is an inactivated vaccine that has reached the stage of pre-clinical testing in animals”. The patent for the vaccine was filed by the company nine months ago, however, the efficacy of the vaccine still needs to be tested. None the less the discovery is essential to combat the virus and is a big inspiration for Indian budding scientists. The world has only recently started research on developing a vaccine after the outbreak came to limelight. Dr. Ella has said that the company at best has the capacity to produce one million doses of vaccine per year. To scale up the delivery of the vaccine it needs intervention from the government, and for this, he has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help fast track the development of the vaccine. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, a pediatrician, and Director General, ICMR has said that they will examine the vaccine from a scientific point of view and take it forward.
The Logical Indian Community congratulates Bharat Biotech for taking the early initiative. This shows that medical prowess of India is immense. By providing vaccine to Brazil and especially to poor African countries India can strengthen its diplomatic efforts in these countries. This ‘vaccine diplomacy’ will definitely be fruitful for India in the long run as it can project itself as a dependable friend.