Zika can infect adult brain cells, not just fetal cells: study

August 19, 2016
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The recent research at Rockefeller University showed that Zika virus can infect adult brain cells, not just fetal cells, as scientists believed earlier. Results of the research, lead by professor Joseph Gleeson, were published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Zika can affect an adult brain cells too, say the scientists from the Rockefeller University. Earlier, the epidemiologists thought that virus can cause severe birth defects, the worst of them is microcephaly. But now, Gleeson team linked the disease to cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. That is a rare autoimmune disorder, which could result in paralysis and even death.

Illumination of the fluorescent biomarker in green reveals that the adult mouse brain could be infected by Zika in a region called the subgranular zone of the hippocampus
Illumination of the fluorescent biomarker in green reveals that the adult mouse brain could be infected by Zika in a region called the subgranular zone of the hippocampus

The experiments on mice proved demonstrated an evidence that adult brain cells critical to learning and memory also might be susceptible to the Zika virus. For the scientists, it was a surprise. According to lead author of publication Joseph Gleeson:

“We think of Zika health concerns being limited mostly to pregnant women. We asked whether [these cells] were vulnerable to Zika in the same way the fetal brain is. The answer is definitely yes.”

The recent study is just an initial step in discovering whether Zika can endanger adult human brain cells. Of course, the scientists will conduct more other experiments to learn how to prevent the spreading Zika and how to avoid its severe birth defects and influence on the adult brain cells. Professor Gleeson says that there is no need to panic, but the science also needs to consider the potential consequences in a careful way.

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