Zika virus, which sent the world into a panic frenzy in 2016 after babies were born with brain damage because their mothers had become infected, may be resurfacing.
Scientists have warned that there’s a strong possibility of a fresh outbreak with just a single mutation potentially strong enough to trigger a volcanic spread.
According to the study published by Cell Report, the new variant can spread wide and fast, even in communities that have previously built up immunity against the virus.
What is known about Zika Virus?
Aedes mosquitoes spread this shapeshifting virus. They can be found throughout the Americas – save for Canada and Chile ( too cold for them to survive)- and Asia.
While people infected with Zika only fall ill briefly with no lasting effects, the virus can negatively impact babies in their mother’s wombs. If a pregnant woman is infected, it can cause the child to develop damaged brain tissue and a curiously small head, a condition called Microcephaly.
Its symptoms in adults include rash, fever, and joint pain. However, only a few people have died of the Zika virus, and one in five infected people developed symptoms. There’s no cure for the Zika virus. However, scientists are currently working on developing a vaccine for pregnant mothers.
Threat of an outbreak
Lead investigator Prof Sujan Shresta from La Jolla Institute said, “The Zika variant that we identified had evolved to the point where the cross-protective immunity afforded by prior dengue infection was no longer effective in mice.
“Unfortunately for us, if this variant becomes prevalent, we may have the same issues in real life.”
Prof Jonathan Ball, an expert in viruses at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC: “We’ve heard so much lately about the rapid evolution and emergence of coronavirus variants, but this is a timely reminder that shapeshifting is a common feature shared by so many viruses.
“This work shows just how rapidly a single letter change in the genome sequence of a virus can arise, and the stark impact it can have on the disease capability of a virus. But viruses that share these changes haven’t often been seen in outbreaks and, as the authors point out, these intriguing insights require more thorough investigation.”
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