UCF gets $1.3 million to study Zika, help develop vaccine

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 01, 2017, 10:33 PM EST

Scientists at University of Central Florida will use over a million dollars in state funds to research the Zika virus, possibly leading to a vaccine.

  • UCF researchers got $1.3 million for Zika research
  • Working on several projects
  • Research could lead to vaccine creation

UCF got $1.3 million, one of 24 grants across Florida to develop better testing and prevention of the illness.

Two of the UCF researchers have discovered that Zika can fight off a person's "innate immunity," which is the first line of defense. The virus does this by binding to certain proteins in the body, thus making it easier for the virus to infect someone.

The researchers will use about $500 thousand of the state funds to find out what the virus uses for protection, possibly leading to a vaccine or drug therapies.

Another group of researchers is designing a mosquito surveillance tool to assist in fighting the illness. The tool attracts insects and feeds them a gold nanoparticle-colored sugar water. 

The researchers say infected mosquitoes will turn a different color as a warning system to residents. 

The researchers will also remove the salivary glands from the insects to hopefully find out how the virus maintains the infection in humans.

Almost 5,000 people have contracted the Zika virus across the country, including more than 1,000 in Florida.