Tuesday August 14, 2018

Zika Virus Infection may cause lasting Eye Diseases, also posing a wider Threat in Human pregnancies: Study

Studying Zika infection in monkeys may help follow the progress of the mosquito-transmitted infection and associated health problems in humans

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New York, May 26, 2017: Zika virus infection may cause lasting eye diseases and may be thus posing a wider threat in human pregnancies than previously thought, scientists have found.

The study, conducted on rhesus monkeys, showed that although the foetus affected with Zika virus did not show its typical symptoms such as shrunken heads or microcephaly, unusual inflammation in the foetal eyes, in the retinas and optic nerves, in pregnancies infected were observed.

“Our eyes are basically part of our central nervous system. The optic nerve grows right out from the foetal brain during pregnancy,” said Kathleen Antony, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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“It makes some sense to see this damage in the monkeys and in human pregnancy — problems such as chorioretinal atrophy or microphthalmia in which the whole eye or parts of the eye just don’t grow to the expected size,” she added.

In the study, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, the team infected four pregnant rhesus macaque monkeys with a Zika virus dose similar to what would be transferred by a mosquito bite.

The findings revealed that the virus was present in each monkey’s foetus.

“That is a very high level — 100 per cent exposure — of the virus to the foetus along with inflammation and tissue injury in an animal model that mirrors the infection in human pregnancies quite closely,” Golos said.

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Moreover, three of the foetuses involved had small heads, but not quite so small as children born with microcephaly.

Studying Zika infection in monkeys may help follow the progress of the mosquito-transmitted infection and associated health problems in humans, the researchers said.

“The results we’re seeing in monkey pregnancies make us think that, as they grow, more human babies might develop Zika-related disease pathology than is currently appreciated,” Golos noted. (IANS)

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Novel Vaccine Approach Proves Powerful Against Zika Virus

However, the next big question is "will this be protective in humans?", the researchers said

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Experimental vaccine shows potential against Zika virus
Experimental vaccine shows potential against Zika virus. (IANS)

An experimental single dose vaccine against the Zika virus has proven to be powerful in mice, new research has found.

The vaccine employs an uncommon two-pronged approach to fighting the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and is most serious for pregnant women and their foetuses.

The vaccine, carrying genes for two or three Zika proteins, proved effective in triggering an immune response that prevented later infection by the virus.

“The vaccine was potent, safe and highly effective, at least in the short term. There’s a long way to go, but we think this is a promising candidate for a human vaccine,” said lead author Jianrong Li, professor at The Ohio State University in the US.

The experimental vaccine holds particular promise because it appears to afford an adequate immune response with one dose. In hard-to-reach and resource-poor areas, that becomes especially valuable, added Shan-Lu Liu, co-author at the varsity.

zika virus
Representational image. (IANS)

In the study, appearing in the journal Nature Communications, the team targeted a protective immune response by expressing two or three Zika proteins and looked to vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV — a foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.

In the experimental vaccine, VSV acts as a vehicle to deliver the genes for two or three key proteins from the Zika virus, carrying them into the mouse and expressing them inside some of the cells in the mouse so that the immune system could respond and build up a defence against Zika.

In addition, experiments in mice with severely compromised immune systems showed that vaccination helped their weak immune systems to fight off the virus swiftly and efficiently.

Also Read: Zika Virus May Cause Miscarriages, Stillbirths Without Any Symptoms

The early success with this vaccine has encouraged this team to use the same approach to fight other related viruses, including Dengue fever, the researchers said.

However, the next big question is “will this be protective in humans?”, the researchers said. (IANS)