UM researchers work on Zika virus vaccine

Gov. Rick Scott allocates $25M to go toward Zika-testing research, vaccine

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MIAMI – Researchers at the University of Miami are working hard on a vaccine to combat the Zika virus.

"The most dangerous part is that we don't know what the long-term implications may be," Dr. Sylvia Daunert said.

Daunert, UM's biochemistry and molecular biology chair, heads up a team of researchers working on new ways of diagnosing Zika, which would only take minutes to get results for.

Researcher Sapna Deo said saliva, blood or a urine sample gets mixed with a reactive agent to determine whether someone has the virus.

"If you have a sample that is positive, you will get two lines," she said.

The test is similar to a pregnancy test, and researchers already have a prototype for it.

"You will have a window where you will have the paper strips to show," Deo said.

Researchers said the testing device could be used in a doctor's office or health clinic.

"We hope with (an) influx of money, we can speed up the research process and go from research to a developed product that can go into a clinician's office," Daunert said.  

That money has been slow to come by, as Congress has yet to pass a Zika funding bill. However, Gov. Rick Scott authorized $25 million this week in state money to be used for enhanced Zika-testing research and for the development of a vaccine.

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