Mouse Model For Studying Zika Developed

Immunosuppressed mice that developed Zika had testicular inflammation that could be an important marker in humans infected with the virus.

AsianScientist (Nov. 24, 2016) – Researchers from the University of Hong Kong have enlisted mice in the search for treatments and vaccines for Zika virus infections. Their work has been published in EBioMedicine.

The 2015-2016 global outbreak of Zika virus was declared by the World Health Organization to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, mostly due to the microcephaly and severe neurological effects that the infection could have on unborn babies.

Despite the international attention, the clinical complications of Zika virus infection remain poorly understood, and there are currently no approved treatments specific to the disease. Research on Zika has been hampered by the lack of a suitable animal model to evaluate potential treatments and facilitate an understanding of the virus’ pathogenesis.

In order to understand how Zika virus may affect immunocompromised hosts, a team of researchers led by Professor Yuen Kwok-yung used steroids to suppress the immune systems of mice before and after inoculating them with Zika virus. In addition to detecting high viral loads in multiple organs, they found that many organs had prominent inflammatory changes after steroid withdrawal. Importantly, they found the testes of the mice to be severely damaged.

They further tested the effects of two clinically approved recombinant interferons and showed that the mice treated with either of these drugs had significantly better survival and reduced virus burden and inflammation as compared to the mice without treatment.

These results suggest that inflammation of the testicles might also happen in male patients infected with Zika and that long-term follow up to monitor the fertility and testicular function should be considered in these patients. The researchers also recommend that interferon treatment should be considered in patients in whom the potential benefits outweigh the side effects of the drugs.

The article can be found at: Chan et al. (2016) Zika Virus Infection in Dexamethasone-immunosuppressed Mice Demonstrating Disseminated Infection with Multi-organ Involvement Including Orchitis Effectively Treated by Recombinant Type I Interferons.


Source: University of Hong Kong.
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