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Zika Virus May Become Global Epidemic

Scientists have warned that the Zika virus could turn into a new global epidemic at any time, as new research has revealed that a single mutation in it could lead to a major epidemic.

The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, currently causes mild illness in adults. But it can have devastating effects on babies in the womb, causing brain damage and birth defects.

The virus is a relative of dengue fever and is known to cause microcephaly (an extremely small head) in newborns.

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A new article by American scientists working at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California states that the medical world must be on the lookout for new developments.

In laboratory tests, the team repeatedly transmitted the virus between mice and mosquito cells, resulting in small changes that could lead to a new strain.

Scientists warn that a new strain of the virus will increase antibodies in populations where the previous wave of infections gave rise to collective immunity.

The researchers write that “Since the outbreak of ZIKV (Zika virus) in the United States in 2015-2016, a major challenge has been to understand the triggers of ZIKV evolution and to use this knowledge to facilitate predictions of future outbreaks. can go.”

Since its outbreak in 2016, thousands of babies have been born with cerebral palsy because their mothers were bitten by a mosquito with the Zika virus during pregnancy.

Virologists are working to develop a vaccine that protects pregnant women, but there is no cure for the disease.

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Leading investigator Professor Sujan Shreesta says: “The type of Zika we have identified has evolved to such an extent that the cross-protective immunity from the first dengue infection is no longer effective in mice.

“Unfortunately for us, if this variety becomes commonplace, we may have the same problems in real life,” he said.

Speaking to the BBC, Jonathan Ball, a professor of virulence at the University of Nottingham, added: A timely reminder that changing shape is normal. ”

This work demonstrates how quickly a character change in the genome sequence of a virus can occur, and can have a profound effect on a virus’s ability to cause disease.

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