On Thursday, researchers have published for the first time the Zika virus’ structure, which may leave scientists near the development of a vaccine to protect mainly pregnant women of the microcephaly-linked virus.

The research published by the team from Purdue University have made it easier for scientists to revealed some of the virus’ weakness and liabilities, that could result in an approach for its treatment or the development of a vaccine as reported by the Washington Post.

Pregnant women showing any symptoms of infection who have been to countries where the virus is circulating should get a test to make sure they’re not infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Credit: NBC News

“The structure of the virus provides a map that shows potential regions of the virus that could be targeted by a therapeutic treatment, used to create an effective vaccine or to improve our ability to diagnose and distinguish Zika infection from that of other related viruses,” said Richard Kuhn, lead author and director of the Purdue Institute for Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Diseases (PI4D).

It was also identified by the team the differences in the structure of the Zika virus with others flaviviruses like dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis viruses.

Most of the virus do not reach the nervous system like Zika does, commented study author Devika Sirohi. It is not clear how Zika gains access to these cells and infects them, but the structural differences may be involved, he added.

A scientific consensus over Zika-neurological disorder link

It is well now that Zika virus may share a link with neurological disorders like the microcephaly in newborns, but the link, even though there is statistical implications over the virus and the birth defect, has not been scientifically proven. There is no prove how the virus does it.

In a science meeting held by the World Health Organization (WHO), researchers debated over the not proven link. They concluded that now the scientific consensus is that Zika virus is implicated in these neurological disorders, according to Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in a statement.

It was determined that the continuous spread needed an urgent action for the organization that should not wait for definitive proof, she added.

Currently, there are more than 30 companies across the world working on or have developed potential diagnostic tests. For vaccines, 23 projects are being worked on by several developers.

Some of those developments should move into clinical trials before the end of the year, but others may require more time as they are fully tested and a vaccine is ready for use, commented WHO director.

Source: World Health Organization.