New Study Sheds Light on Zika Mutation

When Zika arrived in Latin America a few years ago, something about it had changed. It was different, more devastating.
This was very strange, considering the disease had existed for decades in another part of the world causing less harm. In Latin America, thousands of babies were being born with microcephaly, a horrible brain defect. To learn more about microcephaly, click here.

A recent study published in the journal Science shed light on Zika and proved to be a milestone discovery. It suggests that a single genetic mutation took part in evolving the Zika virus into the evil force of biology it became, a force that preyed on newborns.

The origins of Latin American Zika can be sourced when soccer players from French Polynesia competed in northeastern Brazil. This is just a theory of course but since then, the mutation of the virus began to appear in every strain in Latin America.

It’s called the S139N mutation and it caused death and microcephaly among lab mice.

Where there is optimism, there are always doubts. Some experts think the discovery is too premature to really prove the S139N mutation was the only factor. They think that the procedure should be conducted with primates because mice are not a good representation of how human brain cells work. After all, we aren’t mice.

Source: Giphy

“It’s potentially important, and it’s provocative,” said David H. O’Connor, head of global infectious diseases at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s primate center, which has tested the Zika virus in monkeys. “But it will require a lot of additional work to show that it can be reproduced in multiple settings, to show that it isn’t simply a coincidence.”

Kristian G. Anderson, director of infectious disease genomics at the Scripps Research Institute is skeptical and recognizes the study’s limitations. He doesn’t think it explained why microcephaly rates varied across the Americas.

There are several looming questions. Why did the mutation persist? Where did it form and why? These questions are what drive scientists and researchers to do their holy work. More discoveries about the Zika virus pop up on a regular basis so we can only hope further studies shed more light on this menace.

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