Brum experts help battle dreaded Zika virus – Birmingham Mail – Birmingham Mail

0
34


Important new research into the spread of the dreaded Zika virus, which can cause birth defects in the feotuses of infected pregnant women, has been carried out by experts at the University of Birmingham.

The disease, mainly spread by mosquitoes, causes microcephaly –abnormally small heads – has spread across Brazil, the Caribbean Central America and and South East Asia.

Researchers from Birmingham linked with others from Oxford to form an international partnership with the University of Sao Paulo, in a move supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

By carrying out genome sequencing to understand the virus’ genetic make-up, the team was able to track the spread of the virus across Brazil.

Feared: a female Aedes aegypti mosquito which carries the Zika virus in the process of acquiring a blood meal from a human host.

The study showed that Zika’s establishment within Brazil and its spread to other regions occurred before Zika transmission in the Americas was first discovered.

By revealing this ‘hidden’ epidemic, the results will help scientists to better understand the link between the Zika epidemic and reports of birth defects and other diseases.

Josh Quick (right) from the University of Birmingham, working with Brazilian colleagues inside the microbus mobile lab in the battle against the Zika virus

Prof Nick Loman, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Biosciences, said: “Genome sequencing has become a powerful tool for studying emerging infectious diseases, however, genome sequencing directly from clinical samples without isolation remains challenging for viruses such as Zika.

“We developed a new protocol that allows for real-time genomic sequencing – something of vital importance when managing viral outbreaks as it can provide real insight into how a virus is spreading, transmitting and evolving.

In February 2016, Zika was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in response to evidence that the infection can cause birth defects in the foetuses of infected pregnant women.

David Ferreira, who was born with microcephaly believed to be linked to the Zika virus, is held by his mother Mylene during a clinic visit

The virus can be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her developing baby, causing problems including severe microcephaly.

With little known at the time about the epidemiology and evolution of Zika virus, the international research collaboration travelled 2,000 km across northeast Brazil in June last year.

The team travelled in a minibus, equipped with cutting-edge mobile DNA sequencing capabilities and tested samples from more than 1,300 patients infected with the virus.

Video Loading

Video Unavailable

Dr Nuno Faria, of the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said: “Despite there being probably millions of cases of the Zika virus in Brazil, there were only a handful of known virus genomes prior to our work. A better understanding of Zika virus’ genetic diversity is critical to vaccine design, and also to identify areas where surveillance is needed”.

Prof Luiz Alcantara from FioCruz Bahia, Brazil, said: “The project is now expanding to other geographic areas in Brazil, where we are tackling not only Zika virus but also dengue and chikungunya viruses, as well as the very recent ongoing yellow fever epidemics.

“The threat posed from viruses transmitted by mosquitoes in Brazil is severe and there is a pressing need to better understand their epidemiology in order to prevent their spread.”



Source link

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY