Zika Virus becomes Lethal for Newborns after Single Genetic Mutation in 2013

Published Date : Sep 29, 2017

Zika virus has been red flagged by Chinese researchers who have pinpointed a single genetic mutation plaguing pregnant women and their babies across the U.S. This could be responsible for numerable cases of serious brain abnormalities such as microcephaly that sometimes cause death. The researchers have also pointed out the May 2013 graduation of the virus from an unwelcomed pest to a global scourge. This had been the time when the two-year outbreak was about to commence in three Pacific islands other than French Polynesia.

As of last week, Brazil has witnessed the birth of 2,952 babies with grievous brain abnormalities born to women infected at the time of pregnancy. Journal Science had received the report of these findings on Thursday. In totality, there have been around 3,589 such babies birthed until last week. Zika virus had reached Brazil in March 2015.

Recent Research Spotlights Zika Virus’s Penchant for Destroying Developing Brain Tissue

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have compared strains collected in 2010 in Cambodia with those harvested in 2015. The results have shocked them to know that only one feature, i.e. a single amino acid, had altered the surface protein of Zika virus in all of the changes. There have been seven sites identified where the RNA of the virus has undergone numerous changes.

A cloned strain mutated at S139N of the virus’ RNA had caused prominently larger destruction in the brain cells of a newborn mice during a test. The neural development of these brain cells mimics that of human babies in the second trimester. Another strain bearing the single mutation had been injected in human neural progenitor cells, i.e. the predecessors of mature human brain cells. The results had revealed ruthless killing of brain cells as the mutated edition multiplied and grew more prolifically in comparison with the 2010 strain.