Zika virus mutated around 2013, leading to birth defects: study

September 28, 2017
Transmission electron microscope image of negative-stained, Fortaleza-strain Zika virus (red), isolated from a microcephaly case in Brazil. The virus is associated with cellular membranes in the center. Credit: NIAID

Zika has been around for decades but only recently began to cause birth defects due to a single mutation the mosquito-borne virus likely acquired in 2013, researchers said Thursday.

The report in the US journal Science explains for the first time how this once relatively harmless virus transformed into a global health threat.

The mutation in one of its structural proteins, called pRM, is believed to have arisen prior to the 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia, said the Science report.

That change in the pathogen's protective coat made the virus more likely to kill developing brain cells in mice and people compared to older versions of the virus, experiments showed.

The change, known as S139N, which involved the replacement of a serine amino acid with an arginine amino acid, was one of "numerous changes" the Zika virus acquired throughout its genome between 2010 and 2016, said the report.

Zika was first discovered in a monkey in Uganda in 1947. In people, it was known to cause a rash and mild illness that soon passed.

But in 2015, Brazil—the nation hardest hit by the outbreak—reported its first cases of babies born with unusually small heads.

This condition, known as microcephaly, was later linked to Zika infection in pregnant mothers.

Zika has now spread to 84 countries. The virus is contagious and can be transmitted by sexual contact or by the bite of an infected mosquito.

The World Health Organization declared Zika an international public health emergency in February 2016, then lifted that order in November of the same year.

Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, and is now known to raise the risk of Guillain Barre Syndrome in adults and microcephaly and other brain-related in infants.

Explore further: Zika birth defects in 5 percent of infected women in US islands

More information: L. Yuan el al., "A single mutation in the prM protein of Zika virus contributes to fetal microcephaly," Science (2017). science.sciencemag.org/lookup/ … 1126/science.aam7120

Related Stories

Zika birth defects in 5 percent of infected women in US islands

June 8, 2017
Five percent of women in the US territories who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant had fetus or babies with defects, including microcephaly, government health data said Thursday.

India confirms first Zika virus cases: WHO

May 27, 2017
The Indian health ministry has confirmed its first cases of the Zika virus, the World Health Organisation has said, the latest nation to be affected by the mosquito-borne virus that sparked global concern.

In Colombia, deformed babies quadrupled amid Zika crisis: CDC

December 9, 2016
Four times the number of babies born with skull deformities linked to Zika virus were reported in Colombia this year following the outbreak of the mosquito-borne infection, said a US government report Friday.

India reports its first three cases of the Zika virus

May 28, 2017
India has reported its first three cases of the Zika virus, including two pregnant women who delivered healthy babies.

Birth defects jump twentyfold in Zika-hit mothers: study

March 3, 2017
Pregnant women infected with the Zika virus last year were 20 times more likely to bear children with birth defects than those who gave birth prior to the epidemic, US health officials said Thursday.

Brazil calls off Zika emergency

May 11, 2017
Brazil's government on Thursday declared an end to a national emergency over the Zika virus which was detected in the Latin American country late in 2015 before becoming a global concern.

Recommended for you

Study seeks to aid diagnosis, management of catatonia

December 11, 2017
Catatonia, a syndrome of motor, emotional and behavioral abnormalities frequently characterized by muscular rigidity and a trance-like mental stupor and at times manifesting with great excitement or agitation, can occur during ...

New compound stops progressive kidney disease in its tracks

December 7, 2017
Progressive kidney diseases, whether caused by obesity, hypertension, diabetes, or rare genetic mutations, often have the same outcome: The cells responsible for filtering the blood are destroyed. Reporting today in Science, ...

New Lyme disease tests could offer quicker, more accurate detection

December 7, 2017
New tests to detect early Lyme disease - which is increasing beyond the summer months -could replace existing tests that often do not clearly identify the infection before health problems occur.

Spinal tap needle type impacts the risk of complications

December 6, 2017
The type of needle used during a lumbar puncture makes a significant difference in the subsequent occurrence of headache, nerve irritation and hearing disturbance in patients, according to a study by Hamilton medical researchers.

Men with HPV are 20 times more likely to be reinfected after one year

December 5, 2017
A new analysis of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) in men shows that infection with one HPV type strongly increases the risk of reinfection with the same type. In fact, men who are infected with the type responsible for ...

New tuberculosis drugs possible with understanding of old antibiotic

December 5, 2017
Tuberculosis, and other life-threatening microbial diseases, could be more effectively tackled with future drugs, thanks to new research into an old antibiotic by the University of Warwick and The Francis Crick Institute.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.