Zika Virus Mutation May Clarify Spread: Study

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 0:16 AM

Their findings support earlier findings that the strain of the virus presently spreading across S and central America and the Caribbean isn't precisely the same as the seemingly harmless strain first seen in Africa.

Zika Virus Mutation May Clarify Spread: Study

Researchers have tracked down some of the genetic mutations in the Zika virus and declare they hope they can assistance clarify why the virus seems to all of a sudden started causing birth defects.

Their findings support earlier findings that the strain of the virus presently spreading across S and central America and the Caribbean isn't precisely the same as the seemingly harmless strain first seen in Africa.

Instead, the Zika virus presently causing birth defects and paralyzing disorders in its victims descends from a strain that circulated in Asia before jumping across the Pacific, the team at Univ of California, Los Angeles, and the Chinese School of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College said.

"We believe these changes may, at minimum partially, clarify why the virus has demonstrated the capacity to spread exponentially in the human pop in the Americas," said Genhong Cheng, a microbiology Prof at UCLA.

"These changes could enable the virus to replicate more efficiently, intrude new tissues that allow protective niches for viral propagation, or evade the immune system, leading to viral persistence."

The team hasn't actually shown this. What they've done is document several major changes in some of Zika'south genes that can presently be examined to look if they modify how the virus spreads and affects people.

"It is unclear why the Zika virus strain that already existed in one thousand nine hundred sixty-sixth in Malaysia didn't have a significant clinical impact until fifty years later in Oceania," the UCLA team wrote in their report, published in Cell Host & Microbe.

"It confirms a lot of what we suspected," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the research.

"These changes could enable the virus to replicate more efficiently."

"The Zika virus has undergone significant genetic changes in the past seventy years," Cheng added.

By tracing its genetic mutations, we aimed to realize how the virus is transmitted from person to person and how it causes different types of disease."

Brazilian researchers are also documenting genetic changes. It may get months before sufficient scientists have studied the virus to realize which mutations are the most important.

"There is a lot of similarity between the French Polynesian strain and the strains we're seeing in the Americas," added Hotez, who helped sound some of the first alarms about Zika.

Zika was first seen in Uganda in one thousand nine hundred forty-seventh. It didn't seem to do much to people. It'south closely related to dengue virus, which can cause a fatal hemorrhagic fever. But Zika seemed not to cause any symptoms in most people, and at worst a hasty and fever in those who did notice anything.

An epidemic in the Pacific Islands in two thousand-thirteenth and two thousand fourteen looked different. People noticed the symptoms of rash, fever and achiness much more.

"It confirms a lot of what we suspected."

And when Zika hit Brazil latest year, people noticed they felt much sicker. Then authorities reported a startling rise in the no of cases of a terrible birth defect called microcephaly, marked by a smaller-than-normal brain and head. Zika'south presently been found in the brain tissue of fetuses and babies killed by severe birth defects, and they comprise a range of damage to the brain.

The U. S. Centers for Sickness Control and Prevention says there'south number doubt Zika causes these defects. The World Health Organization says it'south beautiful clear Zika also causes paralyzing nerve conditions, including Guillain-Barre syndrome and inflammations of the brain and spinal cord.

When researchers see back, they discover proof Zika did this in French Polynesia, also. It'south just more noticeable presently because it'south spreading across a enormous population, and quickly.

Now, Hotez said, researchers can see at the genetic data - taken from just forty-one samples of virus - and look if they can link the mutations with seemingly new effects.

"Which of these mutations is involved in the virus'south skill to infect neural progenitor cells, stop the development of the fetal brain, and whether some of those same mutations could also be responsible for Guillain Barre," Hotez said.

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