DHR recruiting volunteers for Zika research study

EDINBURG — Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is recruiting people to participate in a Zika clinical trial, according to a DHR news release.

As part of the study, participants will either receive an experimental vaccine against Zika or a placebo. Those willing to participate must be between the ages of 15 and 35 and in good health.

Their goal is to determine if the vaccine can safely and effectively prevent disease caused by Zika infection, according to Dr. Patrick Noonan, director of interventional neuroradiology who will be one of the sub-principal investigators.

“What we’re trying to find is that it’s efficacious, and we think it is,” Noonan said. “That this vaccine will induce immunity, similar to having had the Zika infection itself.”

The vaccine is not infectious and will not cause infection because it does not contain live or inactivated Zika. It was provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

DHR is one of only four facilities in North America who were selected to conduct this research study by NIH, according to Lisa Treviño, vice president of research and development at the Research Institute at DHR.

The hospital received approval Wednesday and Treviño said they can already start screening potential participants. The study will last for 96 weeks and she said they hope to enroll 50 people by the end of the year.

Prior to the screening, though, volunteers are given an explanation of what the study is about, why they’re doing it, what it means to them, the potential benefits, the risks and their rights as participants.

Because it’s completely voluntary, patients have the right to ask questions at any time, and to stop at any time. However, Treviño said the hope is they will remain for the entire length of the study.

“It’s important to recruit the patients and enroll the patients, but also to retain the patients,” she said. “That’s something that we try to establish early on and explain the real importance of making their study visits and the schedule that we provide them and staying on that schedule.”

The administration of the vaccine will be every four weeks apart but, in the interim, there will be clinic visits during which urine samples will be collected for processing.

People who would like to participate in the study may call (956) 362-2380 for more information.

“Participation here to get this vaccine through the trial and hopefully approved will help people around the world,” Noonan said. “It’s going to help a lot of people.”