Emory Researchers Study Zika Virus Infection in Human Dendritic Cells

Researchers from Emory University believe that they’ve identified a therapy target to boost human immunity against infection with the Zika virus. With the Zika virus in some US states and mosquito season on the horizon, identifying a means to block Zika virus infection has become even more important.  

In a study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, a group of researchers from Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University discussed their analysis of the “early innate immune response” human dendritic cells had to infection with the Zika virus. To do this, the researchers studied how viral infection differed when these cells were infected with the Puerto Rican strain (PR-201) of the Zika virus versus when infected with isolates from the historic African (MR-1947 and Dak-1984) and Asian (P6-1966) strains.   According to the study, dendritic cells are vital to immune response in that they can identify pathogens and activate “innate and adaptive antiviral immunity.” Nevertheless, infection with each of the strains of the Zika virus used in this study prevented type I interferon (IFN) protein translation, thus inhibiting antiviral effects.

Commenting on the study in a press release, Mehul Suthar, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and Emory Vaccine Center, said, “How Zika blocks translation of type I interferon is unknown and studies are underway to understand the mechanism behind this unique finding.” The researchers believe that the Zika virus targets additional pathways in these cells that have yet to be identified, but they are working to do so. Dr. Suthar is a faculty member in the IMP and MMG programs.

Click here to view the full story in Contagion Live.  A related article is also featured in the Emory News Center and Lab Land - The Emory Health Sciences Research Blog.