Zika virus outbreak could spread rapidly due to one mutation study warns – Symptoms of illness and how it spreads


New research has warned that a simple mutation of the mosquito-borne Zika virus could make it far more infectious and dangerous.

Zika can cause microcephaly birth defects in babies born to infected pregnant women, a condition which stunts a baby’s head growth, causing devastating, sometimes fatal brain damage and it can result in miscarriage or stillbirth.

Zika only has a few symptoms and rarely shows in adults, but the impact on infants can be catastrophic. An outbreak in 2015 led to the virus being linked to microcephaly in over 30 countries and seven years on, the figure is now 86 countries and territories including the United States.

Sujan Shresta of La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California and her colleagues wanted to discover how Zika could mutate in the future, so repeatedly switched it back and forth between mosquito and mouse cells. They also wanted to find how it evolved in mice exposed to the dengue virus.

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The team found that the same mutant form of the Zika virus developed in mouse cells that had been exposed to dengue virus and those that hadn’t, according to the New Scientist. Put simply, it means this part of the virus’ genome is a mutation hotspot.

Shresta’s researchers found that pregnant mice with the mutant virus have a far greater chance of having their placenta broached and their fetus infected. Zika virus is more common in nations where dengue is also prevalent, likely because the are both spread by mosquitoes of the flavivirus family.

Perhaps most worryingly, results from laboratory tests also indicated that in human cells the mutant virus also replicated more rapidly than the original. Scientists are now working to try and understand what is making this new mutation more infectious.

Is Zika virus in the UK?

Zika cannot be transmitted in the UK as the mosquito which causes infection does not exist in Britain. However, individuals have been known to bring the virus back home with them after going on holiday.

Destinations such as Thailand, Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bahamas, Jamaica, Maldives, Mexico are all labeled ‘risk’ by the UK Government, amongst others. The full list can be found here.

“We need to increase scientific capabilities in different parts of the world and monitor the emergence of these variants,” Shresta said on the findings.

“Zika virus remains a complicated disease to study as its presence is often hidden,” said Henrik Salje at the University of Cambridge. “Most infections go undetected or are misdiagnosed due to the similarity of symptoms with other diseases. We therefore only have a limited understanding of the underlying viral diversity of circulating strains.”

Zika virus symptoms

Zika virus often has no symptoms in adults, but a few do occur in some adults. Son unos:

  1. high temperature
  2. rash
  3. Headache
  4. joint pain
  5. red eyes
  6. muscle pain
  7. Itching all over body




www.walesonline.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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