According to new research from Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research Institute, the infection with Zika virus may prevent a reinfection. This should mean that people who are infected during this epidemic should be safe in any other one that might follow.
Herd immunity, describing a significant part of the population being protected, should be able to lower future risks of epidemics. The article, published in the journal Nature Medicine, also suggests that Zika exists in the blood early during the infection. It stays for a long time in some tissues while in other disappears.
Generally, serious neurological complications and fetal abnormalities are associated with the virus; however, its dynamics as a viral infection concerning replication and shedding are not fully understood.
The research was performed with a series of collaborators, including scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health's Viral Pathogenesis Section, Vaccine Research Center, Biostatistics Research Branch, Division of Clinical Research and the Structural Informatics Unit in the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases.
Dana Vanlandingham, assistant professor of virology, and Yan-Jang Huang, postdoctoral fellow in diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, created the virus in a laboratory, to provide it to researchers who carry out analyses in other distinct research facilities.
During the study, other important findings were discovered, among which is the detection of Zika's RNA in the blood plasma just one day after the infection. Consequently, it was also present in saliva, urine, cerebrospinal fluid or semen, and in small quantities in vaginal secretions. As information about Zika's mutations are scarce, this aspect should be taken into consideration in further research.
While the virus' RNA was cleaned from the blood plasma and urine after 10 days, it was still to be found in saliva and seminal fluids, for at least three weeks after no longer being in the blood. Consequently, immediately after the infection, the RNA was present in the tissues, from the brain to both male's and female's reproductive system.
It was also during this research that improved models for further research advances were proposed, as well as vaccines that could be tested easily and requiring a smaller amount of time.
Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute, also mentioned that further research needs to be carried out in order to fully comprehend the systematic manner in which the virus attacks the nervous system. Other research purposes would be to inspect the period of time and the extent to which the virus is present in saliva and semen.
The research was published after Higgs' team developed a potential vaccine against Zika, as confirmed on Oct. 4.
"This vaccine is a successful advancement in developing control strategies for Zika virus by creating widespread immunity in susceptible populations," explained Higgs.