Health Care

Zika mosquito may transmit dengue, chikungunya with one bite

Zika mosquito may transmit dengue, chikungunya with one bite

Now that Zika is no longer an emergency, Cancer Research UK announced on Friday that researchers are preparing to test the possibility of using the Zika virus as a weapon to target and destroy brain tumour cells, which might lead to new cancer treatments.

This results in "congenital Zika syndrome", with children born with neurological problems including microcephaly, causing abnormal brain development and smaller heads.

Justine Alford, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, tells Newsweek: "The Zika virus attacks the stem cells of the developing brains of fetuses, leading to a condition called microcephaly".

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While the Zika virus had been known about for nearly seventy years, and a few outbreaks had been reported in the past, it was not until it became a serious epidemic in Brazil in July 2015 that it became headline news. "To do this it must bypass the blood brain barrier". This barrier is so effective, however, it often prevents drugs from being delivered to diseased parts of the brain.

"When these mosquitoes get infected with two or three different viruses, there is nearly no effect that the viruses have on each other in the same mosquito", she said.

Glioblastoma cells closely resemble those seen in the developing brain.

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Researchers led by Harry Bulstrode at Cambridge University will use tumour cells in the lab and in mice to assess Zika's potential.

"Zika is of great interest to Queenslanders, not only because a number of people returning from overseas have contracted the virus, but also because a mosquito species prevalent in North Queensland, Aedes aegypti, is one that is largely responsible for the Zika outbreak".

In order for Zika virus to have this effect, it has to pass the blood brain barrier which is very important when it comes to the treatment of brain tumors.

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Alford says she hopes we will see the Zika virus attacking the tumor cells, but it is far too early to predict any outcome: "He [Bulstrode] will be looking to see what, if any, effect Zika has on these cells". It could happen immediately or it could take a lot longer. It is hoped that Zika could be introduced to the cells and destroy them in the same way it now destroys the developing brains of fetuses. Researchers will focus on glioblastoma, which is the most common form of brain cancer and has a five-year survival rate of 5 percent, Reuters reported. This could then allow them to develop more effective treatments.

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