SAN DIEGO, June 28, 2016 — The Zika virus is spread primarily by the Aedes mosquito. Found predominantly in Asia and Africa, the Aedes mosquito has spread to other parts of the world where there are warm temperatures and prevalent bodies of water.
The Zika virus poses a great threat to pregnant women, due to its ability to spread to the fetus. There is no known cure and no vaccine to protect against the Zika virus.
The threat of Zika virus has qualified it as a growing epidemic threat, and the World Health Organization (WHO) now considers it an international health emergency, according to www.directrelief.org.
Symptoms of the virus can appear flu-like and include fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, joint pain and headache.
A test specifically for the Zika virus is necessary to definitively confirm or deny it.
New and emerging research provides insight and hope for understanding how the virus affects the human body and possibly how to reduce the spread of infection.
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) recently found that interferon-induced protein 3 (IFIT3), found in the human body, may help to reduce spreading of infection by the Zika virus.
According to Dr. Abraham Brass, assistant professor of microbiology and physiological systems for UMMS, “This work represents the first look at how our cells defend themselves against Zika virus’ attack…Our results show that Zika virus has a weakness that we could potentially exploit to prevent or stop infection.”
The Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, has recently discovered a genetic pathway that is responsible for the spread of infection caused by the virus.
Researchers learned that shutting down the pathway helped to contain the spread of the disease.
“Out of 19,000 genes that we looked at, we only found nine key genes that the virus relies on for infection or to spread disease,” says Michael Diamond, M.D., the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine.
Diamond and his colleagues identified the gene SPC S1 utilizing CRISPR genome editing technology and discovered that it helps to reduce the spread of infection without impacting healthy cells.
According to Diamond, “In these viruses, this gene sets off a domino effect that is required to assemble and release the viral particle. Without it, the chain reaction doesn’t happen and the virus can’t spread.”
The good news is that this research holds positive implications for curing or containing a variety of flaviviruses worldwide, which includes the Zika virus.
The SPC S1 gene finding also holds promising implications for the development of a specific drug that would target and contain them.
In the meantime, when traveling at home or abroad, always apply mosquito repellant that contains lemon eucalyptus or DEET.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 32 years. As a featured “Communities Digital News” columnist, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities Digital News,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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