Nov 20, 2020 • 6:22 am CST
African Mosquitoes Spread Less Zika Virus
Why hasn't the Zika virus (ZIKV) disease caused as much devastation in Africa, its continent of origin, as it has in the Americas? Outside of Africa, this flavivirus is transmitted by a ubiquitous mosquito subspecies, Aedes aegypti aegypti.
New experiments published in Science on November 20, 2020, revealed that African mosquitoes transmitted a smaller virus inoculum than the South American insects.
Nov 17, 2020 • 2:19 am CST
Naturally Derived and Nontoxic Chemical Fights Off Mosquitoes
The USA has taken substantial actions to fight against vector-borne diseases such as Zika. During August of 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency approved a new chemical called nootkatone for use in repellants that could help the world better fight insect-borne diseases.
Nootkatone kills biting pests in a unique way, different from other insecticides already registered by the EPA, including pyrethroids, organophosphates, carbamates, and cyclodienes.
Unlike many other repellents and pesticides, nootkatone is naturally derived and is nontoxic to humans and other mammals. Additionally, nootkatone does not lose its potency after a few hours on the skin like many other naturally derived repellents.
Jay C. Butler, M.D., Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases at the U.S. CDC stated on August 10, 2020: “Providing new alternatives to existing bite-prevention methods paves the way to solving one of biggest challenges in preventing vector-borne diseases—preventing bites.”
Nov 6, 2020 • 4:33 am CST
Where Aedes Mosquitoes Fly, Zika Is Close Behind
Although the Zika epidemics in the Americas are now history, the Zika virus may re-emerge “in many countries in silence,” commented Sujan Shresta, Ph.D., a professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI). “We need to develop effective Zika vaccines.”
In a new study published by Science Advances on November 4, 2020, Shresta and her colleagues at LJI report that the immune system’s T cells have the power to prevent Zika infection in mice. This finding suggests that effective Zika vaccines need to activate T cells to work alongside antibodies.
The research team at LJI found that the vaccine strategy could induce a strong immunity against a potentially lethal Zika virus infection by inducing mainly CD8+ T cells, also called “killer” T cells, against the virus. The vaccine also prevented Zika transmission through the placenta from mother to fetus in pregnant mice.
Nov 2, 2020 • 11:06 am CST
Reemergence of Zika in Brazil During 2020
Since the emergence in Brazil in 2015, manifestations of Zika virus (ZIKV) infections range from asymptomatic to severe neurological complications, including Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS) in adults and microcephaly in newborns via transplacental transmission, reported a September 17, 2020 study published in The Journal of Travel Medicine.
A recent ZIKV-associated GBS case highlights the ongoing importance of vigilance in residents and travelers to regions with prior ZIKV outbreaks, particularly outside typical arboviral seasons.
Oct 27, 2020 • 2:12 pm CDT
Puerto Rico Reports 67 Probable Zika Cases
The Puerto Rico Health Department reported on October 6, 2020, there have been (67) probable Zika virus cases reported during 2020. The vast majority of these Zika cases have been confirmed surrounding the capital city of San Juan.
Oct 25, 2020 • 9:53 am CDT
Brazil Issues Patent for Potential Zika Treatment
Isla Pharmaceuticals, a Puerto Rico based company, announced on October 20, 2020, that a key patent relating to Isla101 has been granted by the Brazilian Industrial Property Office. Isla101, a drug with a well-understood safety profile, is being repurposed for the potential prevention and treatment of mosquito-borne diseases and has been in approximately 40 clinical trials for other indications.
Dr. Paul MacLeman commented in a press release, "The grant of the Brazilian patent is a significant development for the company as mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue, Zika and others represent major unmet medical needs in Brazil."
Brazil has been severely affected by outbreaks of Zika virus.
Oct 23, 2020 • 12:10 pm CDT
California Confirms Reduced Zika Virus Infections
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported on October 1, 2020, the continual decline in travel-related Zika virus cases in 2020. The new report indicates only (3) Zika cases have been confirmed during 2020, which is a significant delines from the (41) Zika cases confirmed during 2019.
Thus far in California, Zika virus infections have been documented only in people who were infected while traveling to areas with ongoing Zika transmission, through sexual contact with an infected traveler, or through maternal-fetal transmission during pregnancy, said the CDPH.
Oct 21, 2020 • 11:47 am CDT
Zika Virus Degrades Essential Protein
Researchers at the University of Maryland's new study shed new light on how Zika virus hijacks our own cellular machinery to break down an essential protein for neurological development, getting it to 'eat itself'. Mechanistically, the Zika virus NS2A interacts with KPNA2 and leads to the reduction of the KPNA2 protein level.
Published on September 28, 2020, this study found through the process known as autophagy, that KPNA2 is degraded via the CMA pathway and that ZIKV infection enhances KPNA2 degradation.
This process may contribute to the development of neurological or brain deficiencies and congenital birth defects in the newborns of infected pregnant women.
Oct 19, 2020 • 10:22 am CDT
Zika Infection Impacts Infants During the 1st Trimester of Development
A new article in The Lancet Infectious Diseases provided rates of vertical transmission and adverse outcomes from the Zika virus. Based on Bayesian latent class analysis of data from seven prospective studies done in different settings in the Americas, as well as in travelers and immigrants to Spain from the Americas.
These researchers found the markers of congenital Zika virus infection are estimated to be lowest in the first trimester of pregnancy and the susceptibility of the developing nervous system in an infant seemed to be the highest in the first trimester.
Oct 13, 2020 • 8:09 am CDT
Novel Needle-Free Zika Vaccine Gains Partners
UK-based Enesi Pharma and The University of Adelaide announced on September 22, 2020, that they are collaborating to accelerate the development of a novel needle-free vaccine for the Zika virus (ZIKV). This project will utilize a protective Zika virus DNA vaccine developed by the University of Adelaide, with Enesi Pharma’s ImplaVax technology.
The technology delivers a thermostable single solid dose implant containing the vaccine through the skin and into the tissue, without using a needle. Once inserted, the implant dissolves, releasing the active ingredient over time and inducing the desired immune response.
The University of Adelaide researchers will progress the pre-clinical work necessary to take the Zika vaccine to Phase 1 clinical trials. This work will be undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard University, and the Duke-National University of Singapore.
Oct 12, 2020 • 3:18 pm CDT
Zika Infections Remain A Health Risk in 2020
A new study published by PLOS on October 2, 2020, stated 'although the number of Zika virus (ZIKV) cases has declined following the 2015–2016 outbreak in the Americas, ZIKV remains a public health concern due to the potentially severe consequences of in utero exposure to the virus.'
Based on the current evidence available, these researchers said 'the clinical presentation of ZIKV infection in adolescents appears to be primarily mild and similar to the presentation in adults, with rare instances of severe complications and/or mortality. However, reliable estimation of the risks of ZIKV complications in these age groups is limited by the scarcity and quality of published data.'
The U.S. CDC states: There is no current local transmission of Zika virus in the continental United States, including Florida and Texas. But, Zika virus cases continue to be reported in Puerto Rico during 2020.
Sep 5, 2020 • 7:46 am CDT
Zika Vaccine Partnership Announced
England-based Enesi Pharma announced on September 3, 2020, its partnership with the University of Adelaide to develop a new thermostable, solid dose DNA vaccine for the Zika virus to prevent infection of pregnant women and the resultant congenital effects in unborn children. No date for launching a phase 1 study was announced.
DNA and RNA vaccines present important thermostability challenges and require an uninterrupted end-to-end cold chain throughout to maintain potency up to the point of administration. Enesi’s ImplaVax® technology aims to address these challenges by creating needle-free, solid dose vaccines, that are thermally stable at temperatures up to 40oC and eliminate the need for cold-chain storage and distribution.
Sep 5, 2020 • 7:36 am CDT
Zika Infection During Pregnancy Can Affect a Baby's Brain
In some cases, a Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy leads to a series of severe defects in the fetus collectively known as congenital Zika syndrome (CZS), which includes microcephaly, defective neuronal migration, and impaired cortical development. These researchers from Brazil compared brain tissue from babies who died from CZS with tissue samples from babies that died from other causes.
A study published on June 9, 2020, by Aguiar et al. combined genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses of blood and postmortem brains and demonstrated that ZIKV-infected neonates showed a reduction in collagen expression and an increase in adhesion factor expression, alterations in the extracellular matrix consistent with the brain defects seen in CZS. Together, these datasets form a useful resource for those investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying CZS in humans.
'The Zika outbreak began in 2015, and only now do we have these results. Scientific research cannot be performed overnight. I know everyone wants answers quickly, but the fact is that if you speed up the process artificially, you risk getting bad science," said these researchers in a press statement on September 3, 2020.
Aug 31, 2020 • 2:32 am CDT
Accelerate Congenital Zika Virus Syndrome Identification
This study published in The Lancet on August 26, 2020, reports that clinical Zika virus cases with severe malformations of the rhombencephalon and reduced total brain volume have a higher chance of also showing pathological brain activity, including epileptiform discharges and reduced sleep-related oscillations. And, infants with Zika-derived microcephaly commonly present irritable behavior, which may develop into subclinical and clinical seizures.
This new study suggests 'identifying signs with predictive power over clinical evolution can help the physician to determine better treatment and, consequently, prognosis.'
Aug 28, 2020 • 3:05 pm CDT
Updated Guidelines for the Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika
The WHO published interim guidelines on the prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus in September 2016, based on a limited amount of evidence under an emergency process during a public health emergency of international concern. Since then, the body of scientific evidence has grown considerably.
You can download this new document, which was published on June 15, 2020, at this WHO link.
Aug 27, 2020 • 8:15 am CDT
California Reports Positive Zika Trend
The State of California Health Agency reported a very positive, downward trend in travel-related Zika virus cases on August 1, 2020. Through the first 6-months of 2020, California has only reported (2) Zika cases. This data compares with 2019 when (41) Zika cases were confirmed in California. And in 2018, when (68) cases were confirmed.