Zika Virus Insights: News and Updated Zika Services

by Robert Buckheit III

September 20, 2016

Zika virus continues to emerge as a significant public health problem, especially in South and Latin America, as scientist continue to learn more about the devastating effects of the virus. In addition to the well described microcephaly that may occur if women are infected during pregnancy, Zika virus was recently observed to cause serious damage to the corpus callosum, increases in calcium deposits throughout the brain, and ventriculomegaly, an enlargement of the fluid spaces around the brain. Ventriculomegaly typically occurs in 1% of all pregnancies, but in a retrospective study of Zika infected fetal brains, the disorder occurred in over 94% of babies affected by Zika infection and was not always associated with microcephaly. This could indicate that babies affected by Zika and born without microcephaly may still suffer from long term neurologic effects of infection. Additionally, recent evidence also indicates that adult brain cells may also be vulnerable to Zika virus infection. Zika virus was observed to infect adult neural progenitor cells in mouse models, which are the same type of cells infected in the developing fetal brain. A percentage of neural progenitor cells are constantly maintained in specialized niches of the mature adult brain and function to repopulate the brain’s neurons throughout life. It is not clear if the loss of neural progenitor cells due to Zika infection will lead to long term effects on memory and learning, but defects in neural progenitors and neuroplasticity have previously been associated with cognitive decline and neuropathological conditions. Confirmatory studies will need to be performed to determine if these results can be extrapolated from animal models to humans. However, the results suggest that infection with Zika virus as a non-pregnant adult may not be as innocuous as previously believed.

These data highlight the need for continued efforts to develop small molecule inhibitors of Zika virus replication and vaccine strategies to prevent Zika virus infection. ImQuest BioSciences has the tools to advance your Zika virus development program, with a suite of in vitro assays including anti-Zika virus screening assays as well as assays to evaluate promising drug candidates for their range of action, efficacy in combination with other drugs, and the potential for resistance selection during treatment, including phenotypic/genotypic characterization of resistant strains which emerge. We additionally offer mouse and non-human primate Zika virus in vivo models. For your vaccine development program, take advantage of ImQuest’s virus stock production services, customized neutralization assays, and our expertise in the development and validation of GLP-compliant immunoassays. Contact us to learn more about our Zika, Dengue, Chickungunya and West Nile services.

Sources:

Devastating Effects of Zika Virus Seen in New Fetal Brain Scans

Zika Infection May Affect Adult Brain Cells

Return to the Blog