A dead­lier form of Zika

Sun.Star Baguio - - OPINION -

JUST as the rest of the Philip­pines are await­ing the ar­rival of the vac­cine to be pro­vided free to its cit­i­zens- in­fants and young chil­dren- for the much dreaded Ja­panese en­cephali­tis, an­other dis­turb­ing and alarm­ing news popped out. An in­trigu­ing study in mice sug­gests that a sin­gle ge­netic mu­ta­tion in mice helped trans­form the Zika virus into a dev­as­tat­ing force in Latin Amer­ica par­tic­u­larly Brazil. This news penned by Pam Bel­luck and com­pany was sourced from a re­port pub­lished by the pres­ti­gious jour­nal Science.

The mu­ta­tion called S139N first arose in an Asian strain of the Zika virus in 2013, just be­fore a small out­break in the French Poly­ne­sia- the first linked to an in­crease in ba­bies born with mi­cro­cephaly or small, pyra­mi­dal shaped heads-. The study by sci­en­tists in China found that strains of the S139N Zika virus caused sub­stan­tially more deaths and mi­cro­cephaly in mice tah other strains. In a lab­o­ra­tory set­ting, the S139N strain killed more hu­man cells im­por­tant to the arly brain de­vel­op­ment than an ear­lier strain with­out mu­ta­tion. Un­der­stand­ably, the re­sults of the study pro­voked world­wide re­ac­tions with many epi­demi­ol­o­gists and mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gists in­sist­ing that, the study as well as the re­sult must be repli­cated in pri­mates be­cause lab­o­ra­tory ex­per­im­ments with mice and even hu­man brain cells can­not fully cap­ture how the virus func­tions in na­ture. Dr. David H.O'Con­nor, head of the global in­fec­tious dis­eases at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son Pri­mate cen­ter which has tested the Zika virus among mon­keys say that, " the study is po­ten­tially im­pofr­tant, but it re­quiresa lot of ad­di­tional work to show the re­sukts can be re­pro­duced in mul­ti­ple set­tings, to show hat it is not merely, co­in­ci­dence." Dr. Hongjun Song adds, " this mu­ta­tion is both suf­fi­cient and nec­es­sary to make the virus worse ." The neu­rol­o­gist-sci­en­tist of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia who helped dis­cover how the Zika virus at­tacks the brain cells of fe­tuses. And he con­tin­ues, warn­ing that, " this study os one of the smok­ing guns, the scary part and the take home­mes­sage, is that it doesn't take much- just one­mu­ta­tion- to make some­thing re­ally re­ally bad."

Next Week> Ori­gin of Zika virus

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