CHAPEL HILL — Four researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a new Zika virus vaccine.

Ralph Baric, professor in the Department of Epidemiology and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Jessica Plante, a postdoctoral scholar in epidemiology, filed the application with Jessica Swanstrom, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Epidemiology, and Matthew Begley, a research technician in the Department of Pharmacology.

The Patent and Trademark Office made the filing public Thursday.

The Zika virus, transmitted primarily by mosquitoes, often comes without symptoms, but can trigger paralysis in some patients and cause birth defects for pregnant women. Currently, no vaccine or specific treatment exists for the virus.

The first recorded outbreak of Zika virus disease was reported from the Island of Yap in 2007, followed by a large outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013 and other countries and territories in the Pacific. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific.

The invention is to serve as a method of protecting a fetus from the effects of Zika virus infection, producing an immune response to a Zika virus in a subject and treating a Zika virus infection in a subject, the claims of the report stated.

According to the application, “The present invention is directed to flavivirus vaccines that neutralize Zika virus infection.”

The patent application said that the vaccine’s development was made with government support under grants awarded by the National Instituted of Health, with the United States government retaining certain rights in the invention.

This story is from the North Carolina Business News Wire, a service of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism.