UH scientists hope to create vaccine from vial of Zika virus

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A controlled sample of the Zika virus is coming to Hawaii for scientific study.

The University of Hawaii is bringing the virus here in hopes of creating a vaccine.

The John A. Burns School of Medicine applied for a permit in 2009 to import the virus to Hawaii. The Hawaii State Board of Agriculture only recently approved the request Tuesday and the school will be given a small vial of the virus from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Officials say it will be closely monitored and under heavy security so that no one will be in any danger of catching the virus.

“There are three security doors that you have to come through,” said Dr. Vivek R. Nerurkar of the Dept. of Tropical Medicine. “There’s a security guard in here, so not everybody from the roadside can just come up in here and start looking at the virus. We control the access into this controlled room.”

Experiments are conducted in what’s called a bio-safety cabinet that’s equipped with filters. What comes out of the cabinet is 99.99 percent clean air.

The Zika virus is known to cause severe birth defects in babies.

Of the birth of two infants on Oahu in December 2015 to mothers infected with the Zika virus, only one infant was microcephalus, a condition that stunts the growth of the head, leaving inadequate room for the brain to fully develop and causing impairment to the child.

Nerurkar first applied for the state permit to import a Zika virus sample in 2009 after an outbreak of Zika virus in Yap and French Polynesia, both relatively close to Hawaii.

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