ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Over 5,000 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the United States since 2015, and scientists say there may be a resurgence of cases of this mosquito-borne disease over the next few months. Researchers have learned more about how Zika is transmitted and are finding therapies to stop the virus before it does its damage.
“We still don’t know enough about what are all the short-term and long-term effects on the baby,” said Indira Mysorekar, Ph.D., an associate professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology; Pathology & Immunology and the associate director of the Center for Reproductive Health Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. (Read Full Interview)
Mysorekar is an expert in fetal infections. She and her colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis are looking at ways to stop the spread of Zika from mother to child. Researchers infected pregnant mice with Zika. During pregnancy the virus can be seen passing through the placenta. Next, researchers injected other mice with antibodies that blocked the virus.
“It was not allowed to cross over into the placenta into the area where the blood flow, nutrient and oxygen exchange is happening, so the babies were fine,” said Mysorekar.
Professor Mysorekar said what works in mice should also work in people.
“This is going into human trials,” detailed Mysorekar. “First round of human trials are starting now with this antibody.”
At the same time, Kelle Moley, M.D., a professor and Vice Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis, is researching the impact of Zika on men. Dr. Moley examined the reproductive systems of Zika-infected mice.
“By day 21, we saw no germ cells so basically this would imply that it would lead to infertility, if it has the same effect,” Dr. Moley told Ivanhoe.
Dr. Moley said it’s a reminder to both men and women in infected areas to take precautions.
There have been very few studies linking Zika virus to infertility in men. Dr. Moley said there is a CDC study underway in men in Puerto Rico examining a link between Zika, sperm motility, and a decrease in testosterone levels. According to the National Institute of Health, the first human clinical trial of a potential Zika vaccine is underway at Walter Reed Army Institute of research in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.
MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS – RESEARCH SUMMARY
TOPIC: STOPPING ZIKA IN ITS TRACKS: MEDICINE’S NEXT BIG THING?
REPORT: MB #4244
BACKGROUND: The Zika virus is most commonly spread by the Aedes species mosquito (the mosquitos with white stripes), but can also be transmitted sexually, and spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus. The best way to prevent Zika is to avoid mosquito bites by wearing insect repellant or long clothing in areas that have mosquitos. Some infected people will not exhibit any symptoms, but the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain, or headaches. Although people rarely die from Zika, it is very dangerous for pregnant women. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Other problems in infants include defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. There have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system. There is no specific treatment for Zika, just treating the symptoms, but researchers may have discovered a way to block the virus.
TREATMENT: At the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, two mouse models of Zika virus infection in pregnancy have been developed to provide a basis to develop vaccines and treatments, and to study the biology of Zika virus. The scientists infected pregnant mice with the Zika virus and as in humans, the virus crossed from the mother’s bloodstream into the fetus and infected the developing brain. In the model in which mice were injected with antibodies, the effect of Zika infection was less severe, compared to the other group of mice without antibodies, where most of the fetuses died or were much smaller than normal. Researchers are starting human trials with this antibody and hoping that vaccinating the mother will protect the fetus from infection.
MICROCEPHALY: Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. It can usually be detected at birth, but can also be noticed if the head is not growing as it should. Some children will develop normally despite their head size, but many have developmental delays in speech and movement, mental retardation, dwarfism, and difficulties with coordination. It has a number of causes such as malnutrition during pregnancy, chromosomal abnormalities, decreased oxygen to the fetal brain, and the Zika virus.
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