Zika proteins linked to birth, neurological defects identified

New York, Jan 3 (IANS) Seven Zika virus proteins, believed to cause conditions, including birth defects such as microcephaly and neurological problems such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, have been identified.

“The mechanism of Zika virus has been a real mystery,” said lead researcher Richard Zhao, Professor at University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM).

“These results give us crucial insight into how Zika affects cells. We now have some really valuable clues for future research,” Zhao added.

Zika virus infected hundreds of thousands of people around the world, mostly in the Americas. No vaccines or treatments to prevent or treat the symptoms of Zika infection has been developed yet.

To test the virus, Zhao used fission yeast — a species that in recent years has become a relatively common way to test how pathogens affect cells.

For the experiment, Zhao separated each of the virus’s 14 proteins and small peptides from the overall virus. He then exposed yeast cells to each of the 14 proteins, to see how the cells responded.

Seven of the 14 proteins harmed or damaged the yeast cells in some way, inhibiting their growth, damaging them or killing them.

The next step is to understand more about how these seven proteins work in humans. It may be that some of them are more damaging than others, or perhaps all of them work in concert to cause harm, the researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

–IANS

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