Every day we hear more and more about the dangerous impact of the Zika virus and thanks to animal research and testing, science is learning more about the infection and what can be done to stop its spread. Last week Newsweek featured a submission from Frankie Trull, President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), discussing the role of one specific species in the rush to find a vaccine to the Zika virus: nonhuman primates (NHP). In the piece titled, “Zika Virus Vaccine Possible with Help of Primate Research,” Ms. Trull makes it clear to the public that primates will play an influential, if not irreplaceable, part in annihilating the ongoing spread of Zika.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that the virus causes microcephaly, whereby babies are born with noticeably smaller heads and underdeveloped brains. Scientists have also established a link between the virus and meningoencephalitis, a deadly type of brain inflammation, as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disease that impairs muscle performance and can lead to paralysis.
Researchers are studying pregnant primates and sharing their data in real-time to examine how different strains of Zika behave in animal models. Computer models and cell cultures cannot provide an accurate depiction of the virus in living tissue and thusly animal models are engaged to ensure human safety. As researcher Dr. Koen Van Rompay notes in the piece, "When we study how the virus affects monkeys, it's very predictive of how it affects people and that information enables us to develop vaccines to fight it."
Please click here to read the piece in Newsweek and learn more about primates in Zika research. Feel free to share your thoughts and concerns in the comments section at the bottom of the article. As we have noted before, it is important to share your pro-research perspective. Please also feel free to share the article with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media.