PARIS - European scientists announced Thursday they had discovered antibodies which attack Zika, a step they hope will pave the way for a protective vaccine against the brain-damaging virus.

The antibodies - frontline soldiers in the immune system - “efficiently neutralise” Zika in human cells in lab dishes, and are also effective against its cousin virus dengue, the team reported. The discovery “could lead to the development of a universal vaccine” against both diseases, they hoped. The Zika-zapping molecules were obtained from people who had previously been infected with dengue and whose immune systems had produced antibodies to fight that disease.