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New Zika mouse model accumulates virus in the brain and other tissues

The ongoing Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic with its link to birth defects and serious immune disease has created an urgent need for a small animal model that can improve our understanding of how the virus causes disease symptoms in humans and speed up the development of vaccines and treatment. A study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases describes one of the first mouse models for ZIKV disease. Following infection via the skin (resembling a mosquito bite), the mice develop disease and accumulate virus in many organs, including the brain. Prior to publication, the results had been uploaded onto the bioRxiv pre-publishing website in response to the Statement on Data Sharing in Public Health Emergencies to which the PLOS journals are a signatory.

Healthy mice are resistant to infection with ZIKV via the skin (the way humans are infected by mosquito bites). Based on experience with viruses related to ZIKV, researchers have therefore turned to mice with mutations in certain immune system genes to test whether they are suitable animal models for ZIKV disease.

Diffusely scattered nuclear degeneration in the neuropil and perivascular cuffing by inflammatory cells
Diffusely scattered nuclear degeneration in the neuropil and perivascular cuffing by inflammatory cells
Image Credit: Dowall et al.