Via his new Zika Diaries blog, Dr. Vincent Racaniello writes: We were ready for Zika virus! Excerpt:
During a recent press conference at ASM Headquarters in Washington, DC, a reporter asked a panel of virologists why, considering all the research that has been done on flaviviruses, Zika virus has caught us by surprise. I could barely resist jumping up from my seat and shouting “We might have been surprised, but we are more than ready to make rapid progress.”
My sentiments were confirmed the next day at the ASM Conference ‘What Does the Biology of Flaviviruses Tell Us About Zika: the Importance of Fundamental Virus Biology.” At this meeting I heard 23 talks which illustrated the remarkable research progress that has been made on understanding the biology and pathogenesis of this emerging virus. Most of this work was made possible by years of previous research on other flaviviruses. Here are some examples I took away from this meeting.
According to PubMed, as of 1 June 2016 there are 842 papers on Zika virus, of which 649, or 77%, have been published in the past year!
Two different groups have developed methods for producing Zika virus strains from cloned DNA—a method that enables the construction of virus mutants to study replication and pathogenesis. Mouse models were described in which Zika virus, after inoculation in the footpad, establishes a viremia, replicates in the placenta, and crosses to the fetus, where it causes growth retardation.
A number of laboratories are examining the possibility that antibodies to dengue virus might enhance Zika virus replication and disease—or vice versa. The answer to this question is still unclear, but has implications for deployment of vaccines against both viruses.
Efforts are under way to develop diagnostic tests that can readily distinguish antibodies against dengue and Zika viruses, currently a difficult problem that is complicating epidemiological investigations.