New Study Offers Hope for Treating Eye Problems Caused by Zika Virus in Babies

by Anderson & Shaprio

A team of researchers from Wayne State University School of Medicine has made an important discovery that could help treat eye problems in babies born to mothers infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, a carrier of the Zika virus, poses a significant threat to global health, particularly in regions with high prevalence of the virus. This close-up photograph highlights the intricate details of the mosquito, the primary vector responsible for transmitting the Zika virus to humans. 

The Zika virus is a serious health concern that can cause various problems in babies, including abnormal shrinking of the head and eye abnormalities such as damage to the retina and optic nerve. Globally, the prevalence of Zika virus infection in babies is much higher compared to the United States. According to the World Health Organization, 86 countries and territories have reported evidence of Zika virus transmission since 2015, with the majority of cases concentrated in the Americas, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific regions. In contrast, the United States has reported relatively fewer cases of Zika virus infection in babies, with most cases linked to travel to affected areas or sexual transmission from an infected partner.

Currently, there are no specific vaccines or treatments available for these issues. The researchers, led by Dr. Ashok Kumar and Dr. Sneha Singh, focused on understanding how the Zika virus affects the eyes of infected babies. They found that the virus disrupts the normal balance of cholesterol in the eye, which plays a crucial role in eye health.

By studying cells from the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, the researchers identified two key proteins, ABCG1 and SREBP-2, that regulate cholesterol levels. They discovered that increasing the activity of ABCG1 or inhibiting SREBP-2 could reduce the replication of the Zika virus in the eye.

The team then tested these findings in mice with Zika virus-induced eye lesions. They treated the mice with drugs that either increased ABCG1 activity or decreased SREBP-2 activity. The results were promising, showing that these treatments could reduce the severity of eye abnormalities caused by the Zika virus.

This 3D rendering of the Zika virus reveals its intricate structure, with the viral envelope proteins arranged in a distinct pattern on the surface.

The researchers believe that their findings could lead to the development of new therapies for treating not only Zika virus-related eye problems but also those caused by other similar viruses, such as West Nile virus and Dengue virus. This is particularly important for regions with high prevalence of Zika virus infection, where access to proper healthcare and treatment options may be limited.

Dr. Kumar’s team is now working on identifying specific lipid molecules that could have antiviral properties, with the ultimate goal of developing novel antiviral treatments.

This groundbreaking study, published in the journal iScience, showcases Wayne State University’s commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and addressing global health challenges. The collaborative efforts and innovative approaches used in this research demonstrate the institution’s dedication to excellence in scientific investigation, with the potential to benefit countless babies and families worldwide, especially in regions most affected by the Zika virus.

See the full study here:

You may also like