Background: Although Zika virus (ZIKV) infection is typically self-limiting, other associated complications such as congenital birth defects and the Guillain-Barre syndrome are well described. There are no approved vaccines against ZIKV infection. Methods: In this phase 1, open-label clinical trial, we evaluated the safety and immunogenicity of a synthetic, consensus DNA vaccine (GLS-5700) encoding the ZIKV premembrane and envelope proteins in two groups of 20 participants each. The participants received either 1 mg or 2 mg of vaccine intradermally, with each injection followed by electroporation (the use of a pulsed electric field to introduce the DNA sequence into cells) at baseline, 4 weeks, and 12 weeks. Results: The median age of the participants was 38 years, and 60% were women; 78% were White and 22% Black; in addition, 30% were Hispanic. At the interim analysis at 14 weeks (i.e., after the third dose of vaccine), no serious adverse events were reported. Local reactions at the vaccination site (e.g., injection-site pain, redness, swelling, and itching) occurred in approximately 50% of the participants. After the third dose of vaccine, binding antibodies (as measured on enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) were detected in all the participants, with geometric mean titers of 1642 and 2871 in recipients of 1 mg and 2 mg of vaccine, respectively. Neutralizing antibodies developed in 62% of the samples on Vero-cell assay. On neuronalcell assay, there was 90% inhibition of ZIKV infection in 70% of the serum samples and 50% inhibition in 95% of the samples. The intraperitoneal injection of postvaccination serum protected 103 of 112 IFNAR knockout mice (bred with deletion of genes encoding interferon-α and interferon-β receptors) (92%) that were challenged with a lethal dose of ZIKV-PR209 strain; none of the mice receiving baseline serum survived the challenge. Survival was independent of the neutralization titer. Conclusions: In this phase 1, open-label clinical trial, a DNA vaccine elicited anti-ZIKV immune responses. Further studies are needed to better evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
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