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Latest Zika Virus News and Discoveries in the US: Part One

DEC 14, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
For the past year, the Zika virus has afflicted families across the Americas, causing one neurological complication after another. And, although mosquito season is drawing to a close in the Northern Hemisphere, it is starting anew in the Southern Hemisphere, and so additional cases of infection may resurface in these parts of the world. In addition, the Zika virus continues to evolve, if only minimally, as it travels across geographical borders and new information about the virus will conitinue to come to light. As such, it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest Zika virus news.

How Does the Zika Virus Infect the Brain?
Researchers previously discovered that the Zika virus is able to infect cells that contain AXL proteins, which can be found in neural stem cells. As a result, researchers even went on to investigate which antibiotics would successfully block AXL, and thus, hinder Zika from infecting fetal brain cells.
Now, researchers from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, in conjunction with scientists from Novartis, have discovered another pathway for Zika to infect the brain. In their study, published in Cell Stem Cell, the researchers were able to validate that Zika successfully infected neural progenitor cells that did not contain AXL proteins.
In a press release on the study, Max Salick, PhD, co-first author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, stated, “We were thinking that the knocked-out NPCs devoid of AXL wouldn't get infected. But we saw these cells getting infected just as much as normal cells."
The research team is currently investigating the likelihood of other receptor proteins being vulnerable to Zika infection.
CDC Grant Millions to Texas to Help Fight Zika
Last month, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health confirmed that one individual, with no recent travel history or other reported modes of transmission, tested positive for the Zika virus. In an official press release, the CDC noted that this “may be the first known occurrence of local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission in the state.”

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