In order to assess the risks of Zika virus in people, researchers are using a mouse based animal model to predict why some people develop symptoms and others do not (Zika is symptomatic in one in four people); moreover, the research attempts to understand what is happening with babies. It is hoped the insight can also be channelled into the developed on new treatments.
As reported previously in The Latest News, the disease affected about one in four people (symptoms are generally a mild fever); however, the disease can damage the unborn child carried by pregnant women (affecting the brain through a condition called microcephaly).
With this, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that, on infection, high levels of the virus are detected in the mouse brain and spinal cord. This matches what is thought to happen in human foetuses, in terms of neurological defects.
One interesting observation so far is that the levels of the virus are considerably higher in male mice compared with female mice. This may add weight to the idea that the virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, from a man to a woman.
These findings came from robust testing, where a series of mice were challenged with five different strains of Zika virus, one of which dated back to the first recorded instances in the late 1940s.
Speaking with Laboratory Roots magazine, lead researcher Dr. Michael Diamond commented: “Now that we know the mice can be vulnerable to Zika infection, we can use the animals to test vaccines and therapeutics–and some of those studies are already underway–as well as to understand the pathogenesis of the virus.”
The research is published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. The paper is called “A Mouse Model of Zika Virus Pathogenesis.”