Zika Transmission During Sex Prevented in Mice

Testicular inflammation and oxidative stress known as reactive oxygen species, caused by Zika virus

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Without an FDA approved medication or vaccine available to combat the Zika virus, researchers are exploring various ways to prevent its transmission.

In a new, small, mice study, researchers found the medication ebselen alleviated the testicular symptoms and prevented the transmission of Zika via sperm during sex.

Ebselen is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant medication that is being evaluated in clinical trials for the prevention or delay of cell damage in bipolar disorder, osteoporosis,  and acute ischemic stroke patients. 

The results of this non-human study on the effects of ebselen on replication in vitro and lethality in vivo were published in PLOS Pathogens

This research team found that the Zika virus damaged cells, impaired normal gene expression, damaged sperm, and infected sperm cells in male mice.

Additionally, the Zika virus was found to cause increased testicular inflammation and oxidative stress. Ebselen treatment of mice significantly reduced ZIKV-induced testicular oxidative stress, leucocyte infiltration and production of pro-inflammatory response. Furthermore, it improved testicular pathology and prevented the sexual transmission of ZIKV in a male-to-female mouse sperm transfer model. 

As of January 23, 2018, a total of 2,395 pregnant women with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection in the US States and the District of Columbia have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal birth defects, says the CDC.

While further research is needed to evaluate the efficacy of ebselen, the findings of this mice study suggest a potential role for the drug in treating and preventing transmission of Zika in humans.

These researchers did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika, at this time.