Though first documented 70 years ago, the Zika virus was poorly understood when it burst onto the scene in the Americas in 2015. In one of the first and largest studies of its kind, a research team lead by virologists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston?? has characterized the progression of two strains of the viral infection. The study, published online on Octoberr 3, 2016 in Nature Medicine, revealed Zika's rapid infection of the brain and nervous tissues, and provided evidence of risk for person-to-person transmission. "We found, initially, that the virus replicated very rapidly and was cleared from the blood in most animals within ten days," said corresponding author James B. Whitney, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research (CVVR) at BIDMC. "Nevertheless, we observed viral shedding in other bodily fluids such as spinal fluid, saliva, urine, and semen, up to three weeks after the initial infection was already cleared." The Nature Medicine article is titled “Zika Viral Dynamics and Shedding in Rhesus and Cynomolgus Macaques.” Dr. Whitney and colleagues infected 36 rhesus and cynomolgus macaques with strains of the Zika virus derived from Puerto Rico and Thailand. Over the next four weeks, the scientists tested blood, tissues, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and mucosal secretions for the presence of Zika virus, as well as monitored the immune response during early infection. Their data shed new light on the previously little-studied virus, and might help explain how Zika causes the devastating neurological complications seen in adults and unborn babies. "Of particular concern, we saw extraordinarily high levels of Zika virus in the brain of some of the animals - the cerebellum, specifically - soon after infection," said Dr.
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