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FDA Research Reveals Zika Virus Able to Infect Healthy Neonatal Mice

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published new research showing that the Zika virus is able to infect healthy neonatal mice.

It goes without saying that much of the world’s attention has been capitalized by the Zika virus in 2016. Several major government and private research organizations have research on a vaccine for the devastating mosquito-borne illness already underway, and now, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking their turn in sharing results of their research with the healthcare community.

According to a recent press release, the organization recently published a study in PLoS Pathogens, that provides a “description of a neonatal mouse model that provides a platform for potentially improving and expediting studies to understand the causes and effects (pathology) of the Zika virus.” What sets this study apart from other studies in the mouse model is that previous studies showed that only immunocompromised mice “are susceptible to Zika virus infection,” while this new study “shows that neonatal mice with otherwise healthy immune systems are also susceptible.”

Discovering how the Zika virus is able to infect both healthy and immunocompromised hosts is one step in the right direction to learning more about the impact of the virus on the human population.

In their research, the FDA scientists utilized the C57BL/6 mouse strain of the Zika virus and discovered that “neonatal mice of this strain are susceptible to the Zika virus and develop neurological symptoms 12 days post infection.” Interestingly, the mice of this strain recover from the Zika virus and as such, the scientists are able to study not only the long-term effects, but also experimental vaccines and therapeutics against the virus.

In the press release, the FDA’s Chief of the Laboratory of Immunology, Daniela Verthelyi, is quoted as saying, "There are many unanswered and essential questions about how the Zika virus works, including the long-term impact. This mouse model gives researchers a new tool to study and understand how the Zika virus replicates and spreads in the body, which we hope will provide these critical answers."

The FDA has committed to a comprehensive effort to fight the Zika virus, and this new study is just one of several initiatives. Additional projects include investment “in initiatives to understand the effectiveness of technologies that reduce pathogens (such as viruses or other microorganisms that can cause disease) in blood, evaluate the impact of red blood cell storage on virus infection, expand the agency’s database of virus-infected samples essential to the development of diagnostic devices, and explore how long the Zika virus persists in body tissues, among other projects.”

The FDA is also committed to aiding in the response to the outbreak by protecting the safety of the country’s blood, cell, and tissue supplies, as well as promoting the development of diagnostic tests, among other activities. Perhaps this dedication to safety is what has kept instances of Zika virus in blood donations low. Although the devastating illness continues to provide researchers with new and disturbing information, as the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and each new piece of information brings us all that much closer to a vaccine for Zika.