BOSTON (WHDH) - Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have made some key discoveries in the development of a vaccine for the Zika virus.

Transmitted by mosquito and sexual contact, the Zika virus is spreading rapidly through South America and the Caribbean. Recently, cases have been reported in Florida and pregnant women are advised against traveling to certain regions in the state. The virus has been linked to microcephaly, which causes pregnant women to give birth to babies with severe birth defects.

Researchers in Boston are working with a team at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland. While researchers in Maryland are working on a more traditional vaccine, the Boston lab is doing what researchers described as a “vaccine of the future.” Dr. Dan Barouch said the vaccine involves stitching DNA from the Zika virus into a health piece of DNA.

“It allows for a lot of flexibility. You can decide exactly what pieces you want to put into the vaccine,” said Dr. Barouch.

Barouch believes young men and women, including women before they get pregnant, would be good candidates for the vaccine. People traveling to Zika-affected regions would also be considered for the vaccine.

The vaccine has been 100 percent effective in animals, showing no detectable virus in their bodies. Barouch said they hope to test the vaccine on people some time this fall.

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