Understanding the biological mechanisms of Zika virus disease
The Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-transmitted human pathogen which has affected over 50 countries to date. More than two million infections and 4,000 suspected cases of Zika virus-related birth defects have been recorded in Brazil alone. Unfortunately, there are no antivirals or vaccines currently available.
The Zika virus is a unique pathogen with a complex transmission and pathogenic profile. It can be spread through mosquitoes as well as via sexual and mother-to-child transmission. It causes a wide spectrum of disease, ranging from symptom-free infections to mild, self-limiting symptoms, to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Additionally, Zika infection in pregnant women has been linked to microcephaly) and other brain abnormalities in developing fetuses and newborn infants. Zika-affected areas in Brazil have shown an unprecedented rise in birth defects. The complexity and severity of this virus underscores the need for greater research to understand the molecular mechanisms which allow the Zika virus to infect, persist, and spread through infected human cases.
This project will use advanced biomolecular, genomics and proteomics techniques to explain the molecular mechanisms by which the Zika virus infects and persists in the human body, how it affects the human reproductive and central nervous system, and how the risk of fetal abnormalities can be better predicted in infected pregnant women. By doing so, the project may identify new opportunities for developing therapies to prevent severe illness in mothers and their infants, and to reduce sexual transmission