Zika Virus: Causes, Impacts and Structure

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Zika Virus

The topic of discussion today is the Zika virus. Firstly, what exactly is this virus? The zika virus is a mosquito borne flavivirus and it happens whenever a mosquito bites you. The mosquito that carries the Zika virus is called A. aegypti. The virus was first to turn up in Uganda in 1947 and it was actually monkeys that had the virus. The virus gets its name from the Zika forest in Uganda and this is due to monkeys being diagnosed with the virus first in that actual forest. It was eventually identified in humans in Uganda and Tanzania in 1952. ‘Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. From the 1960s to 1980s, rare sporadic cases of human infections were found across Africa and Asia, typically accompanied by mild illness.’ (Who.int, 2019). Below is an image of the timeline of the zika virus throughout the years.

Figure 1.1: Zika virus outbreak pt.1

zika virus

As mentioned above about where the zika virus originated. In 1947 scientists went into a Uganda forest to observe the zika virus properly and some sample were taken from the monkeys who had the virus. They were then taken back to the lab to understand what this virus was more. The first human case of the zika virus was discovered in 1952 and it was found in Uganda and Tanzania.

‘(World Health Organization, 2019)’

 

zika virus

Figure 1.2: Zika virus outbreak pt.2

‘(World Health Organization, 2019)’

This is the most recent image of the zika virus throughout the world. Over the years the virus spread to equatorial countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan. This is due to the heat in these countries being higher than other places and this is most likely to cause these mosquitoes to land here. 2007 was the first reported large outbreak of zika virus and this occurred in Yap. Over the years there had only been 14 outbreaks recorded worldwide. Discussing the above image though, Brazil notified the World Health Organisation of skin rashes and there were nearly 7000 cases of skin rashes reported in these states.

The symptoms that arise from this virus aren’t as bad you think. The most common symptoms of the zika virus would include: mild fever, rash and joint or muscle pain. The other symptoms that some people get are headache and conjunctivitis. Since these symptoms are normal it would be hard to distinguish whether you have the zika virus or not. ‘No specific antiviral treatment for the Zika virus exists. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms with rest, fluids and medications — such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) — to relieve joint pain and fever. No vaccine exists to prevent the Zika virus. But several vaccines are currently in clinical trials.’ (Mayoclinic.org, 2019). The clinical trials put in place are new treatments and medication to see what can maintain and prevent this virus in people. These clinical trials started last August 2018 in Baltimore, and they were the first in human trials performed live, and they were done by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Diseases. Since there are no cure to date, medication to relieve the symptoms is the only thing available.

In 2017, a statistic was done and 120 million people from Brazil were at risk of catching the zika virus, whereas in Mexico only 32 million people were at risk and then only 29.5 million people in Columbia were at risk. Brazil has the highest rate of people catching the zika virus. Why is this though? ‘The Aedes aegypti mosquito is thought to be the principal vector responsible for the widespread transmission of the virus. However, sexual transmission has also been reported.’ (Eliminatedengue.com, 2019). This mosquito is also known as the yellow fever mosquito, it originated from Africa and can be distinguished by its white spots on its legs and on the thorax of the insect a swell. How Brazil, Mexico and Columbia managed to get these mosquitos is they are being shipped globally to tropical and subtropical regions and this causes a big problem for the zika virus and for the people of these countries. The death rate for this particular virus isn’t as high as expected. The patients affected by this virus do come out of it and back to normality, so only about 1% of people affected by it will die. It more commonly kills babies, or unborn babies if the mother has the zika virus. This can cause same serious birth defects and in turn the baby can die either in the womb or after being born. The defects it causes is the baby could have severe brain damage from the virus.

Another form of catching the virus is having sexual intercourse with a person who has the zika virus can be transmitted to you even if symptoms from the person haven’t arose yet. Even after the symptoms have passed, the chances of contracting the virus are as high as during the symptoms. Blood transfusions is another way to incur the Zika virus. ‘There have been multiple reports of possible blood transfusion transmission cases in Brazil. During the French Polynesian outbreak, 2.8% of blood donors tested positive for Zika and in previous outbreaks, the virus has been found in blood donors.’ (CDC, 2019)

zika virus

Figure 1.3: Zika virus structure.

(123RF, 2019)

As seen above this is the structure of the zika virus. The capsid protein is basically a protein shell of a virus, not specifically zika virus. It protects the nucleic acid from digestion by enzymes, it also has these special sites that will allow the virion to attach itself to the host cell. The capsid protein also provides proteins that will allow the virion to infuse the host cells membrane and this also result in the host being injected with infectious nucleic acids resulting in a virus. The E-dimer is a fibrin degradation product and it’s a small protein particle present in your blood after the blood clot has been degraded. The M protein has no real use in humans as it doesn’t help fight infection but can be useful in the zika virus case. The genomeric RNA is just a virus cell and its usually DNA and RNA or just RNA and RNA.

Bibliography: 

  • Eliminatedengue.com. (2019). Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. [online] Available at: http://www.eliminatedengue.com/our-research/aedes-aegypti [Accessed 28 Feb. 2019].
  • Facts, Z. (2019). Topic: Zika virus disease. [online] www.statista.com. Available at: https://www.statista.com/topics/3002/zika-virus-disease/ [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].
  • Mayoclinic.org. (2019). Zika virus - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/zika-virus/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353645 [Accessed 15 Feb. 2019].
  • Mayo Clinic. (2019). Zika virus - Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/zika-virus/symptoms-causes/syc-20353639 [Accessed 11 Feb. 2019].
  • Who.int. (2019). Zika virus. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/zika-virus [Accessed 11 Feb. 2019].

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