APR 09, 2017 05:13 PM PDT

Dengue or West Nile May Protect You Or Put You At Risk for Zika Virus

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Zika, dengue, and West Nile viruses are all related - literally. They are all part of the flavivirus family, and similar viral protein structures shared by all three may explain why some populations in South America were hit so hard by the Zika virus outbreak in 2015.

Credit: Travel + Leisure

Dengue and West Nile viruses are endemic in the same places as Zika, including Puerto Rico and other United States territories. Visible trends show people with a history of dengue, West Nile, or both viral infections at an increased risk for Zika virus infection.

For the first time, in a study published in Science, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai completed a large-scale analysis of the effect of preexisting antibodies from dengue or West Nile viruses on Zika virus infection.

First, researchers collected blood samples from people infected with either dengue or West Nile virus. In cell cultures, antibodies from the plasma in these blood samples enhanced Zika virus growth.

Next, they injected the same plasma into mice genetically altered to be particularly susceptible to Zika virus infection. Researchers saw increased mortality, morbidity, and Zika viral loads in the mice. However, this effect was only visible when low concentrations of dengue or West Nile virus antibodies were administered; high concentrations of the same antibodies actually had a protective effect against Zika infection for the mice.

Researchers from Mount Sinai believe that this dose-dependent connection is responsible for recent Zika outbreaks. Co-author Jean Lim, PhD says that this study “highlights the need for great caution when designing vaccines for Zika and other flaviviruses.” The present study is just the beginning to fully understanding the relationship between pre-existing flavivirus immunity and effective vaccine development.

Currently, Zika virus is endemic to multiple U.S. territories, meaning the virus is regularly found in these areas. However, active transmission has also occurred in U.S. states Florida and Texas. Combined with Zika’s tendency to persist for long periods of time in the body tissues, the virus’s association with microcephaly and other neurological disorders, a connection that is yet to be completely understood, puts Zika virus at a high priority for scientists developing vaccines and other preventative and therapeutic drugs.

Sources: The Mount Sinai Hospital, CDC

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 08, 2018
Cardiology
JUN 08, 2018
Interfering with Inflammatory Signals to Treat Arrhythmia
Part of the immune system has now been implicated in the development of atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common heart arrhythmia that leads to stroke, bl...
JUN 12, 2018
Cancer
JUN 12, 2018
CD44 Insights & Cancer Influence
CD44 is a known cell surface protein involved in numerous interactions; it is overexpressed in cancerous tissue and its isoforms are being investigated as targets for cancer immunotherapy...
JUN 27, 2018
Immunology
JUN 27, 2018
Immune Cells Responsible for Chemo-induced Diarrhea
While studying specific immune cells in the context of chronic itching in the skin, two Washington University School of Medicine scientists discovered that...
AUG 21, 2018
Immunology
AUG 21, 2018
T cells Trapped by Brain Cancer
Brain tumors prevent T cells from escaping the bone marrow by altering levels of the S1P1 protein....
SEP 07, 2018
Health & Medicine
SEP 07, 2018
What's Behind the Massive Measles Outbreak in Europe?
Measles is a disease that many believe was eradicated years ago. That's true, to a point, but like a bad penny, it's back. In the United States, th...
SEP 11, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
SEP 11, 2018
The Potential Anti-cancer Effects of Cannabinoids
They're known for helping to reduce the impact of cancer drug side effects, but it's possible that cannabinoids themselves are cancer fighters....
Loading Comments...