For the First Time, Researchers Identify Key Proteins That May Make Zika So Deadly
Until it burst onto the scene earlier this year, Zika was an obscure, little-known virus. As a result, scientists know little about how it works. Over the past year, they have learned that it can cause a range of dangerous health problems, including birth defects such as microcephaly and neurological problems, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome. But they don’t know which Zika protein or proteins are causing harm, or exactly how these proteins cause damage. Now, a new study by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) has for the first time identified seven key proteins in the virus that may be the culprits behind this damage. The study is the first comprehensive description of the Zika virus genome. “The mechanism of this virus has been a real mystery,” said the lead researcher on the study, Richard Zhao, a professor of pathology at UM SOM. “These results give us crucial insight into how Zika affects cells. We now have some really valuable clues for future research. Zika virus has infected hundred of thousands of people around the world, mostly in the Americas. In the U.S. and its territories, more than 38,000 Zika cases have been reported so far, most of them in Puerto Rico. There are no vaccines or treatments to prevent or treat the symptoms of Zika infection.
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