A single genetic glitch may explain how Zika became so dange
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Chinese and US Researchers believe that they might have an explanation on how Zika acquired the ability to attack fetal nerve cells, causing a severe birth defect in babies whose mothers were infected while pregnant. It could be linked to a single genetic change in 2013 just before a French Polynesian outbreak of Zika in which the first cases of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological disorder, were noted.

Several teams have already traced the virus circulating in Brazil and elsewhere in South America to a strain of Zika that had been quietly circulating in Southeast Asia for decades.

In the new study, published in Science, the researchers compared genetic changes in samples of the South American virus with one isolated in 2010 in Cambodia. They created seven sample viruses, each with a single genetic difference from the Cambodian strain, and tested these in brains of fetal mice. Although the viruses caused some degree of damage in all, those infected with a virus that carried a single mutation in a structural protein called prM developed severe microcephaly. That strain also proved more lethal to fetal brain cells.

Last November, WHO pronounced Zika no longer an international emergency, but stressed that the virus, found in at least 60 countries, will keep spreading where mosquitoes that carry Zika are present...

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