An­tibi­otic may help stop Zika from dam­ag­ing fe­tal brains: Study

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US re­searchers said on Tues­day they have iden­ti­fied fe­tal brain tis­sue cells that are tar­geted by the Zika virus and de­ter­mined that azithromycin, a com­mon an­tibi­otic re­garded as safe for use dur­ing preg­nancy, can block this in­fec­tion, at least in brain cells grown in lab dishes.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco (UCSF) re­ported that the Zika virus pref­er­en­tially in­fects brain cells with an abun­dance of a pro­tein called AXL, which spans the outer cell mem­brane of sev­eral cell types and serves as a gate­way for the in­vad­ing virus.

The fe­tal brain cells that in­cor­po­rate this pro­tein in­cluded neu­ral stem cells and pro­gen­i­tor cells that even­tu­ally form other types of brain cells and that play an es­pe­cially cru­cial role in early brain growth and devel­op­ment. Other cells with AXL in­cluded mi­croglia, which are the brain’s im­mune cells, and as­tro­cytes, a fully de­vel­oped and spe­cialised type of brain cell that serves to sup­port the sig­nal-con­duct­ing neu­rons. Xin­hua

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