BBC – A new outbreak of Zika virus is quite possible, warn researchers, with a single mutation potentially enough to trigger an explosive spread.
The disease caused a global medical emergency in 2016, with thousands of babies born brain-damaged after their mums became infected while pregnant.
US scientists say the world should be on the lookout for new mutations.
Lab work, described in the journal Cell Reports, suggests the virus could easily shift, creating new variants.
Recent infection studies suggest those variants may prove effective at transmitting the virus, even in countries which have built up immunity from previous outbreaks of Zika, say the team from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.
While for most people Zika is a mild illness, with no lasting effects, it can have catastrophic consequences for babies in the womb.
Experts said the findings, although theoretical, were interesting – and a reminder that viruses other than Covid could pose a threat.
Zika is spread by bites from infected Aedes mosquitoes. The insects are found throughout the Americas – except for Canada and Chile, where it is too cold for them to survive – and across Asia.
If a mother contracts the virus during pregnancy, it can harm the developing baby, causing microcephaly (unusually small head) and damaged brain tissue.
The Zika virus
- Although the virus is mostly spread by mosquitoes, it can also be sexually transmitted
- Few people die from Zika and only one in five people infected is thought to develop symptoms
- These can include fever, a rash and joint pain
- Since there is no treatment, the only option is to reduce the risk of being bitten
- Scientists have begun work on a Zika vaccine to help protect pregnant woman
The researchers recreated what happens when Zika passes back and forth between mosquitoes and humans, using cells and living mice in their experiments … READ MORE.