Scientists create model to track Zika transmission in mice

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have developed a mouse model to study how the Zika virus is transmitted and spread.

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The model will help researchers study how Zika is transmitted from males to females through sexual intercourse, how it is transmitted from a pregnant mouse to her fetus and how it crosses the placenta.

The study, published today in Scientific Reports, overcame the challenge of creating a mouse model of Zika because mice naturally defend against Zika better than humans through a stronger interferon, or antiviral protein, response.
NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases scientists suppressed the interferon in specialized laboratory mice that lack the ability to produce T-cells or B-cells, known as antiinterferon RAG, or AIR, mice.

These mice have prolonged Zika infection in the testes similar to men, which allowed researchers to study the sexual transmission of the virus from male to female mice.

Researchers also discovered that the Zika virus was transmitted vertically from pregnant AIR mice to their fetuses.

The study revealed that only some fetuses were infected with Zika showing that the placenta plays a significant role as a barrier preventing the virus from reaching the fetus. Other discoveries included the virus being detected in fetal tissue other than mouse brain tissue, but also lymph nodes.

By Amy Wallace