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expert reaction to a study looking at the effect of the Zika virus on neural progenitors in the adult mouse brain

The Zika virus is known to negatively impact the growth of fetal brains and a group of researchers publishing in the journal Cell Stem Cell have investigated the effect of Zika on the adult brain reporting that infection can lead to cell death and reduced proliferation.

All our previous output on this subject can be seen here. The SMC also produced a Factsheet on the Zika virus.


Dr Anna Checkley, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, University College London Hospitals said:

“This study looked at the effects of infection with Zika virus on the brains of adult mice. The mice were bred with immune deficiencies to enable the researchers to infect them.

“They found that Zika virus was concentrated in the two areas of the brain where active cell division continues in mouse adult life, and their results suggested increased neural cell death in these areas. They found these changes in 3 mice which were experimentally infected with Zika virus, and not in 3 mice which were not infected. This raised the question as to whether aspects of brain function may be affected in adult mice following Zika infection.

“As the authors point out, more information is needed before definite conclusions can be drawn. The study should be validated by repeating it in more mice, and different time points after infection should be studied to establish whether recovery from these effects occurs. It will also be important to establish whether these effects result in changes in mouse brain function.

“It is too soon to say whether these results have relevance for Zika virus infection in adult humans. Detailed neurological studies are needed in infected humans to describe the effects of Zika virus infection on the brains of adults.”


Zika Virus Infects Neural Progenitors in the Adult Mouse Brain and Alters Proliferation’ by Hongda Li et al. will be published in Cell Stem Cell on Thursday 18th August. 


Declared interests

Dr Anna Checkley: “No competing interests.”

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