Zika: A single mutation may make virus much more harmful

Lab experiments have recognized a mutation that will make the mosquito-borne Zika virus extra infectious and virulent, a discovering that may inform genomic surveillance


12 April 2022

Super macro Dangerous Zica virus aedes aegypti mosquito on human skin , Dengue, Chikungunya, Mayaro fever; Shutterstock ID 569801773; purchase_order: -; job: -; client: -; other: -

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits Zika and dengue fever

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A single mutation may make the mosquito-borne Zika virus much more infectious and harmful.

Zika usually causes few signs, if any, in adults, but when an infection happens throughout being pregnant it could possibly trigger microcephaly, a situation during which infants are born with a small head and typically mind injury. An outbreak in late 2015 led to the virus being linked to microcephaly in over 30 nations.

Sujan Shresta at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California and her colleagues wished to imitate the an infection cycle of the virus to see the way it may mutate sooner or later. To do that, they repeatedly switched the virus backwards and forwards between mosquito and mouse cells.

The researchers additionally wished to see if the virus advanced otherwise in mice that had been beforehand uncovered to dengue virus, which causes dengue fever.

Zika virus is extra frequent in nations the place dengue virus can also be prevalent, says Shresta. This might be as a result of each viruses are unfold by the identical forms of mosquitoes and each are a part of the flavivirus household. “People who have been exposed to dengue fever have short-term protection against Zika,” says Shresta.

The researchers discovered that the identical mutant type of the Zika virus developed in mouse cells that had been uncovered to dengue virus and people who hadn’t. The truth it occurred in each teams suggests this a part of the virus’s genome is a mutation hotspot, says Shresta.

The staff then contaminated a number of pregnant mice with the mutant virus, and located that it was extra infectious and extra virulent. This implies that the virus has a larger probability of crossing the placenta and infecting fetuses, says Shresta.

The staff additionally contaminated human fetal cells within the lab, and located that the mutant virus may replicate extra simply than the unique virus. The researchers are actually attempting to determine how precisely this mutation is making the virus extra infectious.

There is not any assure that the mutant virus may even come up in the actual world, however by figuring out what potential mutants might seem like, we will take faster motion in the event that they do seem, says Shresta. “We need to increase scientific capabilities in different parts of the world and monitor the emergence of these variants,” she says.

“Zika virus remains a complicated disease to study as its presence is often hidden,” says Henrik Salje on the University of Cambridge. “Most infections go undetected or are misdiagnosed because of the similarity of signs with different ailments. We due to this fact solely have a restricted understanding of the underlying viral range of circulating strains.

“Studies such as this one help to identify changes in the virus that could lead to increased virulence and will help guide genomic surveillance efforts,” says Salje.

Journal reference: Cell Reports, DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110655

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