New animal model for Zika useful for testing vaccines and treatments
An alternative animal model that mimics key features of the Zika virus infection, including its lingering presence in bodily fluids, has been developed at Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio. Acute infections in male marmosets, a New World monkey, resemble the human illness the Zika virus creates in people, including the presence of the virus in semen, saliva and urine up to two weeks after the initial infection.
The research is featured in a December 7, 2017 article in the journal Scientific Reports.
The primary mode of transmission of the Zika virus is through mosquito bites. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease can be spread through sexual contact.
Like 80% of humans infected with the Zika virus, most of the non-human primates used in this study lacked any apparent clinical symptoms.”Given the key similarities to human infections, a marmoset model of Zika may be useful for testing of new drug and vaccines,” said Texas Biomedical Research Institute virologist Jean Patterson, Ph.D. “Having an animal model of Zika infection to study may help us identify places where we might be able to block transmission.”
A year ago, Texas saw its first documented cases of the Zika virus transmitted by local mosquitoes. That handful of cases along the Texas-Mexico border likely won’t be the state’s last encounter with this emerging virus, according to public health reports.
Zika was first identified in Africa in the mid-20th century. It emerged as an infectious threat in the Western hemisphere in Brazil in 2015 where it made news for creating a spate of birth defects, including the devastating brain anomaly microcephaly.
While rhesus and cynomolgus macaque models of the Zika virus are being studied, the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is a good model since they are small (about the size of a rat).