SILVER SPRING, Md., Nov. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new mouse model developed by scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may help in exploring the potential activity of Zika virus vaccines and therapeutics. Published today in PLoS Pathogens, is the description of a neonatal mouse model that provides a platform for potentially improving and expediting studies to understand the causes and effects (pathology) of the Zika virus.
The recent spread of the Zika virus and its association with increased rates of neurological disorders and complex congenital syndromes, such as microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barré Syndrome in adults, has created an urgent need for animal models to examine the virus' pathology. Better understanding the impact and long-term effects of the Zika virus infection in mice may be useful in efforts to find ways to combat it in a human population. While past research indicated that only mice with compromised immune systems are susceptible to Zika virus infection, this study shows that neonatal mice with otherwise healthy immune systems are also susceptible. "There are many unanswered and essential questions about how the Zika virus works, including the long-term impact," said Daniela Verthelyi, the FDA's Chief of the Laboratory of Immunology, who led the agency's development of the new animal model. "This mouse model gives researchers a new tool to study and understand how the Zika virus replicates and spreads in the body, which we hope will provide these critical answers." The new animal model described in this publication utilizes the C57BL/6 mouse strain. The FDA's scientists found that neonatal mice of this strain are susceptible to the Zika virus and develop neurological symptoms 12 days post infection. These mice eventually recover from disease and thus the model provides an opportunity to study the virus' long-term effects as well as an additional means for early exploration of experimental Zika virus vaccines and therapeutics.