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First Zika vaccine may start clinical trials in September; Congress yet to fund research

Without funding, feds may have to redirect money currently dedicated for research into malaria, tuberculosis and a universal flu vaccine.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The first Zika vaccine candidate may enter initial clinical trials in September, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

Anthony Fauci, MD, made the announcement at a press briefing on Monday, according to published reports. Fauci also bemoaned the lack of funding from Congress and said if lawmakers do not provide emergency Zika funding, U.S. officials likely would be forced to redirect money currently dedicated for research into malaria, tuberculosis and a universal flu vaccine.

That's despite a request by the Obama administration, two months ago, for roughly $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

[Also: Experts warn of Zika epidemic as hospitals, health departments prepare to combat spread]

House Republicans, who'd need to sign off on the spending, told the White House to repurpose money appropriated to fight Ebola, according to published reports. The administration maintained Ebola funds wouldn't cut it, but nevertheless announced it would divert $600 million while it waited on more from Congress.

In February, the World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak a public health emergency. Last week, the organization formally declared for the first time that Zika causes the birth defect microcephaly and the autoimmune condition Guillain-Barré syndrome, and researchers are investigating possible links between Zika and brain and spinal-cord infections, reports say.

The virus has spread to more than 20 countries, and that list is growing.

Health officials said Monday that the mosquito that spreads Zika is now present in about 30 states.

Reports claim that, due to a number of complicating factors, the average vaccine development process takes about 15 years.

Twitter: @JELagasse