Scientists develop first mouse model to battle Zika virus

An able team of researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch have been successful in coming up with the first mouse model that will speed up Zika drug development. This research has already yielded a few clues about the virus' pathogenesis.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: In what can be called as a tremendous development in the field of medicine, a team of scientists from the US have developed first animal model for testing vaccines and drugs to fight Zika virus.

An able team of researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch have been successful in coming up with the first mouse model that will speed up Zika drug development. This research has already yielded a few clues about the virus' pathogenesis.

Lead author Shannan Rossi said that there is a huge demand to screen antivirals that have been backlogged because we haven't had a good way to test them, adding "Without this model, we were really stagnant in our efforts to find new treatments. You can look for efficacy in cell cultures, but that tells you almost nothing about what's going to happen when you test in a mouse or a human. This will help get those drug and vaccine candidates moving through the pipeline."

“Normally, creating a mouse model like this would take us several months, but the urgency of the situation propelled us into this rapid response, and we were able to put together our results in just three weeks," Rossi said.

Rossi injected several genetically distinct varieties of laboratory mice with Zika virus isolated in Asia in 2010. The current epidemic in South America can be traced to the Asian Zika virus lineage, of which this strain is a member.

Normal mice did not develop disease after infection with Zika virus, the research team reported. Only when researchers injected mice that had been genetically altered to have a deficient innate immune response did the animals develop detectible disease. Young mice of these strains are highly susceptible to infection. These mice became lethargic, lost weight and died within six days after infection. Older mice became ill, but did not always develop infection, and they ultimately recovered.

The mouse model is available immediately for testing of antivirals and researcher Scott Weaver said that preliminary testing is already underway with an antiviral developed by another member of the UTMB team, Pei-Yong Shi, PhD, to treat dengue fever.

(With ANI inputs)

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