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New Compound May Block Zika Virus Replication As Puerto Rico Faces Heat on Misreporting Cases

MAY 02, 2017 | SARAH ANWAR
While Zika continues to be a threat to pregnant women and their fetuses, scientists from the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health and Science University recently published research results on a new compound’s ability to block the replication of this and other viruses within human cells. In addition, a news outlet is reporting that there was a disconnect between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health officials in Puerto Rico. There may have been more cases than Puerto Rico officials let on.
 
A research team led by Victor R. DeFilippis, PhD, published their findings in mBio, outlining how AV-C, the molecule they discovered, can trigger a cell’s interferon system to fight off viral infections. As detailed in the article, AV-C was successful in controlling the replication of an arbovirus in human fibroblast cells after 6 hours of initial infection in a controlled lab. According to a press release, the researchers concluded that “AV-C establishes a cellular state antagonistic to replication… [and] triggered secretion of other proinflammatory cytokines, suggesting that it may have potential to enhance vaccine efficacy.” The authors also believe that using the compound in the development of Dengue vaccines may improve efficacy.
 
In addition, the researchers also infected human cells with both the Zika and Chikungunya viruses, to test the compound’s ability to treat those infections. Although AV-C was able to block Zika virus replication even after 16 hours of initial infection with the virus, it did not affect replication of Chikungunya virus, after just 2 hours of initial infection.
 
Chikungunya, Dengue, and Zika are just some of the mosquito-borne viruses that have infected millions of individuals in the Americas. In 2016, a total of 37 US states reported confirmed cases of Chikungunya. One hundred seventy-five individuals acquired the infection through travel outside of the United States, while an additional 170 individuals were infected locally in Puerto Rico. On the other hand, the Dengue and Zika viruses have spread locally in Florida, Texas, and Dengue was widespread in Hawaii, where hundreds of individuals were infected. In addition, the Zika virus was widespread throughout Puerto Rico for the better part of 2016. In fact, it is being reported by major news outlets that the devastation the Zika virus has caused the commonwealth of the United States has been underreported.
 
The news outlet STAT recently reported that it has obtained a document which details a “feud” between health officials in Puerto Rico and the CDC regarding Zika surveillance in pregnant women on the island. According to STAT, “The multipage document suggests that the dispute has obscured the extent of the territory’s Zika problem for more than half a year.” STAT also states that, after the CDC awarded the Puerto Rico Department of Health (DOH) a $9.5 million grant to track cases, the health official in charge of surveillance “declined to communicate with CDC authorities” for several months last year. The CDC has been efficient in its surveillance efforts to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.
 
In fact, in the wake of the 2016 outbreak, the CDC mapped the geographical spread of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, the primary Zika virus vectors, across the United States. On May 1, 2017, the major pest control company, Orkin, released its list of Top 50 Mosquito Cities in the United States, which “ranks metro areas by the number of mosquito customers served from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.”
 
The Top 5 Cities for Mosquitoes in the United States are:
  1. Atlanta
  2. Washington, DC
  3. Chicago
  4. New York
  5. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale
Read the full list here.

As the Northern Hemisphere enters into mosquito season, efforts are being focused on controlling the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito populations. Dr. DeFilippis and his team have found that AV-C does not hinder viral replication in mouse models; however, his team plans to evaluate the compound in nonhuman primates.
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