November FDA Update – Development of Zika Virus Pathology Model

William Salage

Scientists at FDA have developed a neonatal mouse model that provides a platform for potentially improving studies to understand the pathology of the Zika virus. The model was published 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.

This medical advancement is sorely needed in the fight against Zika. 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.

The new model, described in PLoS Pathogens, uses the C57BL/6 mouse strain. Neonatal mice of this strain are susceptible to the Zika virus, per FDA researchers, and the mice develop neurological symptoms 12 days after infection.

Most encouraging however, the FDA agency is also working on ways to respond to the Zika virus outbreak including protecting the US supply of blood, human cells, tissues, and tissue-based products. FDA is accomplishing this goal by incenting and prioritizing the “development of diagnostic tests to help clinicians detect and diagnose Zika virus infection, and evaluating the safety and efficacy of any investigational vaccines and therapeutics that are currently in various stages of early development.”