Local Zika vaccine researcher shares what you should know about mosquito-borne illnesses | St. Louis Public Radio

Local Zika vaccine researcher shares what you should know about mosquito-borne illnesses

Jun 20, 2017

Facts and fiction continue to swirl about mosquito-borne illnesses like the Zika and West Nile viruses. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed what you need to know about such illnesses and how to prevent them.

Saint Louis University is currently at the forefront of trying to develop a Zika vaccine. Sarah George, a researcher with the Saint Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, joined the program on Tuesday to discuss her research and prevention tips.

“There’s been West Nile transmission in the United States since 1999 and in Missouri, there are about 50 cases of West Nile per year reported to the Department of Health,” George said. “Zika has now been reported in every state in the union.”

Sarah George, a SLU researcher working on a possible Zika vaccine.
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Those cases of Zika have all been from returning travelers so far.

Zika transmission by mosquitoes has not occurred in the St. Louis area so far, although the mosquito that can transmit the disease is located here, George said. Zika has been transmitted sexually in the St. Louis area, however.

Saint Louis University is currently undertaking a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study of a potential Zika vaccine. The vaccine was developed by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and is being testing at four sites, including SLU, Harvard, Walter Reed Army Hospital and in Puerto Rico.

It is a whole virus, inactivated vaccine and participants in the study cannot get Zika from it. Thirty healthy adults have been enrolled in the study so far and George is currently looking for 60 more.

“Right now, the NIH and the FDA are hoping to have a Zika vaccine available for general use around 2020,” George said.

The difference between Zika virus and West Nile is that Zika attacks developing neurons in babies still inside their mothers. West Nile, on the other hand, preys on older adults, age 60 and older, and leads to meningitis and encephalitis.

Unfortunately, many of the preventative techniques used to allay mosquito-borne illnesses are not that comfortable in the summer, including wearing long sleeves and long pants. Insect repellants, such as DEET and Picaridin, are also recommended. George pointed to a full list on the CDC website, available here.

For those interested in learning more about mosquito-borne illnesses and what can be done about them, George will give an extended talk about the subject on July 12. Details on the event below.

Related Event

What: Saint Louis University Presents "Zika: Fact, Fiction, and Tips for Prevention"
When: Wednesday, July 12 from 6 - 7:30 p.m.
Where: Center for Global Citizenship, 3672 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108
Registration required on website
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.