Zika virus could be just one step away from an explosive outbreak

A new strain of the Zika virus is highly likely scientists warn that a single change could start an explosive spread.

The virus has been linked to cases of microcephaly

The illness caused a worldwide medical crisis in 2016, with thousands of newborns born with brain damage after their mothers were infected during pregnancy.

US scientists suggest that all humanity should be watching for any new variations.

Research conducted by the lab, as reported by the publication Cell Reports, suggests that the virus can change, resulting in new variations.

Recent research on infections suggests that those variants could effectively transmit the virus in countries that have developed immunity to prior outbreaks of Zika. The team of La Jolla Institute for Immunology. La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

Experts thought the results, while conceptual, were fascinating and served as a reminder of how viruses that are not Covid might represent a threat.

Shapeshifting virus

Zika can be spread through bites from Aedes mosquitoes. They are prevalent all over the Americas but not in Canada and Chile, where it’s too cold to live, and Asia.

For most of the population, Zika is a minor illness with no lasting consequences. However, it could have devastating consequences for infants during the womb.

Suppose a woman contracts this virus while pregnant. In that case, it may cause harm to the newborn baby, which can cause the development of microcephaly (unusually tiny head) and damage to brain tissue.

The Zika virus

  • Although mosquitoes typically transmit the virus, it is also sexually transmitted
  • Zika kills a small percentage of people, and just one in five Zika-infected people is believed to be afflicted.
  • They can be accompanied by the appearance of a rash, fever, and joint pain.
  • There is no treatment available, and the only solution is to decrease the chance of getting a bit
  • Scientists are working on the development of a Zika vaccine that will protect pregnant women

Researchers recreated the process when Zika travels between humans and mosquitoes by using living mice and cells in their research.

Small genetic changes were observed when Zika moved between mouse and mosquito cells in the lab.

It was simple to allow Zika to transform to enable Zika to thrive and spread, even among animals with an earlier immunity to a mosquito-borne disease called dengue.

Further investigation

Professor Sujan Shresta stated: “The Zika variant that we found had changed to the point where protection against cross-protection provided by previous dengue infections did not work anymore in mice.

“Unfortunately, we are not the only ones affected, and if this particular variant is widely used, we could experience the same problems in real life.”

Prof. Jonathan Ball, an expert in viruses at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC: “We’ve heard so many times about the rapid growth and the emergence of coronavirus variants in recent months. However, this is an appropriate reminder that shapeshifting is a prevalent trait shared by various viruses.

“This research demonstrates how quickly a single letter modification within the DNA sequences of viruses could occur and the devastating effect it can affect the ability to fight the disease of the virus. However, viruses with these modifications haven’t been observed in outbreaks, and as the author stress, this intriguing discovery requires greater investigation.”

“Dr. Clare Taylor, from the Society for Applied Microbiology, stated: “Although these findings were observed in laboratory tests and thus have some limitations, it does demonstrate the possibility of variants that are of concern to emerge in regular Zika transmission cycle. These highlights that it is essential to monitor viruses as they develop.”

She suggested it could be possible to determine the variants that could trigger significant problems shortly and intervene earlier.

Prof. Paul Hunter, a Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, has said that previous infections with Zika could still protect against the new variants, like what was seen in the case of Covid.

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