A study that examined primates showed that the Zika virus undergoes several complications during the period of gestation.
The race is on for a Zika virus vaccine. For that research is taking place at breakneck speed. We have to conquer this disease before it conquers us.
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Researchers examining monkeys have shown that an infection with the Zika virus is sufficient protection against any future infections. However, there is a catch to all this. In cases of pregnancy, the virus may take its time in leaving the body.
UW-Madison pathology Professor David O'Connor led the research team of UW and Duke University scientists -- which includes specialists in emergent and insect-borne diseases, genetics and immunology, pediatrics and pregnancy. The study’s results were published in the journal Nature Communications.
The primates studied were rhesus macaques. They served as a perfect object lesson in how the Zika virus may progress through its various stages in people.
Most of the experts that looked into the matter during the course of the study were adept in the fields of pathology, genetics, immunology, pediatrics and pregnancy.
They worked for many months with the monkeys which had been infected by the Zika virus. While it is a long way from monkeys to human beings, for now this model and its extrapolations will do.
Once the monkeys were infected by the virus, they resisted another infection by the same virus two and a half months later. This means that there is hope.
A Zika virus vaccine may lie in the cards. Once such a series of conditions are replicated in vaccine form, the death knell of the Zika virus may well be here.
Yet there were complications along the way. The virus is prolonged in pregnant female monkeys. This is in contrast to male monkeys and non-pregnant females.
The pregnant females had a bout of the virus for a period of a month to more than two months. The Zika virus has also been implicated in the onset of microcephaly in the babies of females. Such babies have small heads and undergo developmental issues later on.
For those females who are not pregnant or about to be pregnant, they will probably not get the Zika virus and everything will be fine. However, for the women heavy with child, they need to be extra careful.
The immune systems of these women who are expecting is very vulnerable to the infection. The infant catching the disease from the mother will harbor it for a longer period of time than the mother.
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Treatments are being looked into which will prevent babies from undergoing neurological damage of any kind. More research needs to be done before a vaccine arrives on the scene and the disease is decimated on a permanent basis.