With researchers around the globe digging into every aspect of the Zika Virus, new information becomes available almost daily. David O’Connor, a pathology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has created a model scenario within the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center using rhesus macaque monkeys. This model is a way to observe how the effects of the Zika virus, spread primarily by the bite of an Aedes mosquito, on these monkeys compares to the effects on human beings.
According to Medical News Today, Professor O’Connor states that what they have seen so far is that the effects are very similar between the monkeys and human studies. Most of this is good news. The reports state that in most cases the Zika virus runs a 10-day course, with mild (if any) symptoms including mild fever, rash, joint pain, and itchy eyes. Yet, even more promising is that when the monkeys are reinfected with the virus, they seemed to have built an immunity to it. This is a promising sign for the creation of a successful vaccine.
PREGNANT MONKEYS STAY INFECTED WITH ZIKA VIRUS LONGER
While Zika is primarily spread by the bite of a mosquito, it can also be spread through sexual contact and from a mother to her unborn child. Past research has shown that babies born from mothers that contracted Zika while pregnant can be born with severe birth defects including microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with smaller heads and possibly smaller brains than normal.
The Wisconsin study shows that although Zika typically lasts about ten days in male and nonpregnant monkeys, in pregnant monkeys it lasts anywhere from 30-70 days. This information has many implications and O’Connor states that “my concern for Zika virus in pregnancy is much higher now than it was six months ago.”
ZIKA INFECTION LOOP BETWEEN MOTHER & FETUS
One of the major implications is that there could be an infection loop between the mother and the fetus causing the infection in the fetus to last much longer. Science 20 news blog states, “If the mother-fetus infection loop — first proposed earlier this year by Johns Hopkins University obstetrician Rita W. Driggers in an analysis of Zika infection in a pregnant woman — proves true, it could provide an opportunity to track the risks to a developing fetus without resorting to invasive (and also inherently risky) tests.” They believe that this information will help determine the amount of damage the virus could be causing in the fetus as well as aid in the research on treatment.
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