Animal Models Helping to Combat Zika Virus

The Zika virus has reached pandemic levels in Latin America and experts believe that it will spread to all of North America, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to recently declare the virus a “global public health emergency.”  Spread mainly through mosquito bites, Zika typically causes an illness similar to a mild form of dengue fever but the most urgent concern is a possible connection to microcephaly in infants and Guillain–Barré syndrome in some patients.  At the moment, no treatment or vaccine for the virus is available but rest assured researchers are working diligently to combat the pandemic with animal models on the front lines.  Yesterday, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) released an interesting overview on the animal research involved in Zika research.

Animal research will be a critical component in discoveries leading to preventing the spread of Zika.  Dr. Franics Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) agrees: “It is now critically important to confirm, through careful epidemiological and animal studies, whether or not a causal link exists between Zika virus infections in pregnant women and microcephaly in their newborn babies.” Researchers at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) highlighted their intent to expedite Zika research and noted in a release, “Studies to develop animal models to study ZIKV pathogenesis (especially neurological manifestations and teratogenic potential) and evaluate candidate therapeutics and vaccines.”

As with every challenge to global health, animal research will be an indispensable resource at every stage of the Zika outbreak.  To learn more and to read FBR’s overview, please click here.