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Zika and the race to quell outbreaks: My talk with Anthony Fauci, NIH’s top vaccine expert

Watch: How long until we have a Zika vaccine? (Video: Video: The Washington Post/Photo: Sammy Dallal for The Washington Post)

Anthony Fauci has spent his career hunting ways to treat and prevent infectious diseases, from tuberculosis to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. He did pioneering work on deciphering how HIV/AIDS attacks the human immune system, and during more than three decades as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has continued the quest to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the world.

In recent years, Fauci and other researchers at NIH, working alongside the pharmaceutical industry, also have found themselves scrambling to develop vaccines and treatments for emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika. The NIH recently began the first human clinical trials for a vaccine to prevent Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has infected hundreds of thousands of people across more than 60 countries over the past year. More than two dozen people have been infected in an ongoing outbreak in Miami.

I spoke with Fauci on Monday about those efforts and why it takes years to develop an effective vaccine. We also talked about the risks that Zika poses to pregnant women and unborn children, why the lack of funding from Congress has hampered efforts to fight the current outbreak and about how much researchers still don't know about the once-obscure virus.