Single Mutation May Have Contributed to Zika's Toll in Latin America — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
October 2, 2017

Single Mutation May Have Contributed to Zika's Toll in Latin America

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by Susan Sadoughi, MD, and André Sofair, MD, MPH

A single genetic mutation may have caused the Zika virus to be particularly pathogenic during the 2015–2016 outbreak in Latin America, researchers report in Science.

The researchers created seven strains of the Zika virus, each with a different mutation, and injected them into newborn mice. They found that while six strains caused generally mild damage, a seventh strain — with a single serine to asparagine substitution (S139N mutation) — resulted in more neonatal death. Additionally, when the virus with the S139N mutation was injected into mouse embryos, more microcephaly occurred. The S139N mutation appeared in every Zika strain in the recent outbreak, the researchers note.

Scientists are divided on the significance of the findings, according to the New York Times. Many, including the study authors, are calling for replication in primates.

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