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Zika's Modus Operandi

Inflammation likely underlies disturbance in brain development in Zika-infected foetuses

25 March 2022

Zika's Modus Operandi

It’s 1947, Uganda, and a monkey named 766, living at the Yellow Fever Research Institute, is sick with a fever. He has an unknown infection, which researchers will soon name Zika virus (ZIKV). Fast forward to 2015 and a ZIKV epidemic has taken hold in the Americas, causing the foetuses of infected pregnant women to suffer brain damage and develop smaller brains than normal (microcephaly). Researchers now investigate the effects of ZIKV infection on the foetal brains of rhesus monkeys. Fluorescent microscopy of foetal brains (pictured) revealed signs of inflammation in infected regions, specifically high numbers of immune cells called activated microglia (red), as well as increased cell death of immature neurons alongside increased markers of phagocytosis (orange), a process that occurs to clean up dead cells. This reveals that inflammation likely plays an important role in disturbing the brain development of foetuses infected with ZIKV.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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