Zika is a kind of disease which was first identified in 1947 but it cached very little scientific interest. It was not before its sudden outbreak which began in South America during mid-2015. This outbreak is also considered to be responsible for the increase in the cases of of microcephaly. Microcephaly is considered a severe birth defect during the infected infant are born with underdeveloped brains.
In the continental United States, there has been a total of 2,260 cases of reported Zika. This cases were associated with travel which included 43 cases of the local transmission which have been reported in Florida. In addition to that, Puerto Rico has reported about 7,855 cases of the locally transmitted cases.
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Eliminating the spread of disease
From all these reports, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is estimating about 270 of the babies might have been born with microcephaly by 2017. CDC is also advising for the preventive measures of the people in these areas. It also includes eliminating the standing water where mosquito’s breeds themselves and are creating a barrier from bites with clothing and insect repellents.
Florida Department of Health is having a robust mosquito borne illness surveillance system. It is partnered with the local groups and even CDC for fighting the infections of the Zika. It is also providing a free Zika testing to the pregnant women. Even Puerto Rico Department of Health has put an active surveillance system for co-ordinating the reporting from health care providers and even weekly spraying in many of the areas.
Zika Virus is commonly being transmitted by mosquito bites or form infected to uninfected via some kind of sexual contact. Even though possessing the disease only one in four will be presenting the symptoms of Zika infection. It is thus allowing the virus to spread rapidly in the areas which includes local transmission.
Drug Screening test for Zika Virus
Due to this CDC is recommending all the pregnant women in residence of Zika infection or frequent travel to such location to have regular screening. Quite many of the research institutions are fast tracking the development of the vaccines, treatments and mosquito control measures for combating the further spread of the virus.
Scientists have reported that a specialized drug screen test by use of lab grown human cells has revealed two classes of compound which can work against mosquito borne Zika Virus. Summary of the work is published in Nature Medicine on 29th August. Investigators has screened 6,000 existing compounds which are currently in the late-stage clinical trials or already being approved for the human use for other conditions.
They have identified several compounds which showed the ability for hindering or halting the progress of the Zika Virus in the lab grown human neural cells. Research collaboration for the same includes teams from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and Florida State University.
Focusing over the target of Zika Virus for treatment
Hongjun Song, Ph D. And director of the stem cell program in the Institute of Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins adding to the same says, “It takes years if not decades to develop a new drug. In this sort of global health emergency, we don’t have that kind of time.”
Guo-li Ming, M.D., PhD and professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says, “So instead of using new drugs, we chose to screen existing drugs. In this way, we hope to create a therapy much more quickly.”
This newer findings are extension of the previous work by them. Previous work included Zika mainly targets specialized stem cells which is giving rise to the neurons in the brain’s outer layer. Researchers has seen the effects of Zika in two and three dimensional cell cultures being called “mini-brains”.
It will be sharing structures with the human brain and allowing the researchers for studying the effects of Zika in form of more accurate model for the human infection. During the current study, research team has exposed similar cell cultures over the Zika Virus and even drugs one at a time. It is being mainly for measuring the indications of the cell death which includes caspase-3 activity which is chemical marker for the cell death.
Various drugs for protecting against Virus
After infection of the Zika, damage done to the neural cells is a kind of dramatic and irreversible. Thus some of the compounds being tested allowed the cells for surviving longer and in some of the cases fully recovering from the infections.
Further analysis showed that, promising drugs could possibly be divided into two classes: neuroprotective drugs which prevent the activation of mechanisms which is causing cell death and antiviral drugs which is slowing or stopping the viral infections or replications. Thus three of the drugs has shown quite robust results which is warranting further study.
Song even cautioned that these three drugs are very effective against Zika but they don’t know whether they can work the same way in humans. Nor do they know whether the drugs might be addressing the wide range of effects of the Zika infections which includes microcephaly in foetuses and temporary paralysis inside the carrier’s womb for treating the brain cells being targeted by Zika.
Ming adding to the same says, “To address these questions, additional studies need to be done in animal models as well as humans to demonstrate their ability to treat Zika infection. So we could still be years away from finding a treatment that works.”
Next steps by the researchers would be testing the efficacy of the drugs over the animal models. This would be done for finding out whether they are having ability for combating Zika in Vivo.
Work was supported by Intramural Research programme of the National Centre for Advancing Translational Sciences. ZIKV seed funding from the Florida State University. Startup fund from Emory University, the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation, the New York Stem Cell Foundation and Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and even National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.