Scientists clone Zika virus to aid in vaccine development

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A team of scientific researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have genetically engineered a clone of the Zika virus strain, according to a new report published in Cell Host & Microbe.

In order to construct the clone, five fragments that make up the Zika viral genome were cloned individually and then assembled into a whole. The manmade virus was administered to Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes via human blood and created successful infections in the mosquitoes. Researchers also conducted a mouse model using the cloned virus. The virus was found to cause neurological disease in the mice.

The Zika strain clone is likely to improve the ability of researchers to more quickly develop countermeasures to the virus and to promote better understanding regarding how the virus has evolved and the methods by which it causes more severe conditions like Guillain-Barré in certain infected individuals.

The study's lead author Pei-Yong Shi, PhD, endowed professor in Human Genetics at UTMD, said, "The new Zika clone, together with mosquito infection models and the UTMB-developed Zika mouse model, represent a major advance towards deciphering why the virus is tied to serious diseases...the new clone is also a critical step in developing a vaccine and antiviral drug against Zika."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Puerto Rico's trash is piling up, making more room for the Zika mosquito  
States and territories can now apply to CDC for funds to fight Zika  
WHO issues advice for Olympic athletes, spectators to avoid Zika 

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