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Scientists Identify Zika Proteins Causing Microcephaly

AUG 18, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
*Updated 8/18/2016 at 5:09 PM EST

In the first research of its kind, an interdisciplinary group of scientists analyzed three Zika strains in second trimester fetal neural stem cells (fNSC) to identify which viral proteins cause congenital microcephaly. These findings come as a separate team of researchers confirms that Zika virus causes neurological complications in adults. Together, these findings underscore the importance of proper diagnosis of Zika infection.  
Tri-Plex Serological Test
Zika, dengue, and chikungunya are arboviral diseases transmitted primarily by the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Infection with one virus can be easily mistaken for another. Recently, a multinational developer of raw diagnostics materials manufactured a tri-testing suite of proteins and antibodies that will help healthcare personnel differentiate between Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses to accurately diagnose Zika virus infection.
Previous research has proven that positive test results for dengue or chikungunya may lead healthcare professionals to rule out the possibility of a Zika infection, since symptoms for these diseases are similar. Yesterday, Aalto Bio Reagents (ABR) announced that its “Tri-Plex suite of proteins and antibodies” is now available to aid in the serodiagnosis of the three aforementioned arboviral diseases. The manufacturer notes that Tri-Plex, the first tri-testing suite, includes “Zika Virus (ZIKV) primary Envelope and NS1 proteins plus Chikungunya (CHIKV) E2 wildtype, E1 mutant and E1 wildtype proteins and a complete set of Dengue virus (DENV) proteins for serotypes 1-4.”
“We now know the molecular pathway, so we made the first big step toward target therapy for Zika-induced microcephaly… Years from now, one shot or a series of shots could target the proteins NS4A and NS4B or their collaborators,” said Jae Jung, PhD.
According to a press release, “Aalto has developed the Tri-Plex of CHIKV-DENV-ZIKV proteins and antibodies through 2015 and 2016 in order for the diagnostic testers at the point of impact to be able to truly sero diagnose positive cases and rule out any cross reactivity with similar viruses carried by the Aedes ageypti mosquito.”
Unlike dengue and chikungunya, congenital infection with the Zika virus is known to cause neurological impairments, such as microcephaly, which causes brain calcifications in developing fetuses.
Zika Proteins that Cause Microcephaly
Virologists and neurobiologists from the University of Southern California (USC) collaboratively identified the proteins that are responsible for these congenital complications. The interdisciplinary group of scientists analyzed three Zika strains in second trimester fetal neural stem cells (fNSC). Recently published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, their findings identified that two of the ten Zika proteins cause microcephaly: NS4A and NS4B.

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