The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Zika virus, a mosquito-borne arbovirus that can infect humans, may spread across the Americas. Symptoms are similar to those of other arbovirus infections, such as dengue, and can include headaches and mild fever but there are also links with Zika virus and microcephaly, a severe birth defect. More effective diagnostic tests are needed in order to respond effectively and more research studies are also needed to investigate the potential link between microcephaly and Zika virus. Public Health England’s National Collection of Pathogenic Viruses (NCPV) supplies authenticated Zika virus cultures and RNA for use in research and development projects.
Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also responsible for the spread of yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya viruses. As a Flavivirus, Zika virus is enveloped, with an icosahedral capsid, and a non-segmented, single stranded positive-sense RNA genome. The pathogenesis of the virus is thought to start with infection of dendritic cells near the site of inoculation, then spread to lymph nodes and the bloodstream, potentially resulting in Zika fever. Flaviviruses generally replicate in the host cell cytoplasm, but Zika virus antigens have also been found in infected host cell nuclei.
Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 from a rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda and it was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The virus has been known to circulate in Africa and Asia for decades but only a small number of outbreaks have been documented. The first Zika virus outbreak reported outside Africa and Asia occurred on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2007. There was a subsequent outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013 and similar large outbreaks in other parts of the Pacific region including the first cases in the Americas on Easter Island (a Chilean island in the south east Pacific) in 2014 (i).
The first locally-acquired infections in Brazil were confirmed in May 2015. According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), which serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 18 January 2016 most states across Brazil had reported locally-acquired cases with estimates that 1.5 million people had been infected with Zika virus (ii). Further cases are expected in other countries in the Americas.
Contact the National Collection of Pathogenic Viruses (NCPV) if you require authenticated Zika virus cultures and/or RNA for research and development.
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