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Zika Virus’s Surprising Benefit

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Zika Virus’s Surprising Benefit

September 13
16:31 2017

For the past couple of years, we’ve heard a great deal about the Zika virus.

It’s a virus that is spread by mosquitos of the genus Aedes. These are the same type of mosquitos that also spread dengue fever and chikungunya.

Once bitten by an infected mosquito, the virus can travel through a person’s bloodstream and into their brain, where it may do little if any harm or where it could cause some problems. Zika can also pass through the placenta of a pregnant woman and infect her unborn baby. It has been linked to a condition called microcephaly, where the baby’s brain fails to fully develop and the baby is born with an abnormally small brain and head.

Microcephaly is not necessarily fatal, but individuals with the condition generally have poor motor function, poor speech, intellectual disability, seizures and even some dwarfism.

The Zika virus can also result in other birth defects and can cause a miscarriage or stillbirth. It seems the virus does most of its damage on the unborn.

This is why the Centers for Disease Control have warned pregnant woman from traveling to areas of the world where the Aedes mosquitos live and where there are known cases of Zika.

Since Zika was first discovered in the United States, experts have discovered that Zika can also be passed from person to person through sexual contact. Zika can also be transmitted through blood transfusions.

Symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes and muscle pain. Generally, the symptoms are not serious enough to require hospitalization and only last a few days to perhaps a week, but rarely longer.

So, how could such an ugly or harmful virus have any possible benefit?

Ever hear about cancers known as glioblastomas? They are an aggressive form of brain cancer. They grow quickly and are referred to as being diffuse, which means they spread out into and with blend healthy brain tissue. This one reason that glioblastomas are hard to treat. Doctors can perform surgery to remove the tumor, but with it being diffused into surrounding healthy brain tissue, it’s very difficult for them to know where the tumor ends and where the healthy tissue begins. Along with surgery, many doctors try to treat glioblastomas with chemotherapy and radiation, but both of which cause numerous side effects that make patients sicker than a dog.

In laboratory tests, researchers injected the Zika virus into mice with glioblastomas. In many of the tests, injections of Zika virus caused the aggressive glioblastoma tumors to shrink in size. When tested on human brain tissue, they found similar results.

In addition, the Zika virus seemed to have no ill effects on the healthy brain tissue surrounding the tumor. Doctors believe the difference in how the Zika affects the brain tissue of an unborn child and that of adult rests with stem cells. An unborn baby’s brain has an abundance of stem cells which are easily targeted by the Zika virus, but adult brain tissue has very few stem cells, making them less susceptible to the Zika virus.

However, the Zika virus was found to attack and destroy the cancerous cells of a glioblastoma tumor. If more tests prove to back up the early tests, Zika may provide one of the best hopes of surviving aggressive and deadly brain tumors, including glioblastomas.

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