In 2015–2016, the little known Zika virus (ZIKV) caused an epidemic, in which it became recognized as a unique human pathogen associated with a range of devastating congenital abnormalities collectively categorized as congenital Zika syndrome (CZS). In adults, the virus can trigger the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), characterized by ascending paralysis. In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared ZIKV to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The global public health problem prompted academia, industry, and governments worldwide to initiate development of an effective vaccine to prevent another ZIKV epidemic that would put millions at risk. The development of reverse genetic systems for the study and manipulation of RNA viral genomes has revolutionized the field of virology, providing platforms for vaccine and antiviral development. In this review, we discuss the impact of reverse genetic systems on the rapid progress of ZIKV vaccines and antiviral therapeutics.
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