From Science Daily
September 4, 2018
In healthy individuals, the Zika virus causes flu-like symptoms. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, the unborn child can suffer from severe brain abnormalities as a result of mechanisms that have not yet been explained. A study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPI-B) shows that Zika virus proteins bind to cellular proteins that are required for neural development.
A few years ago, Zika virus spread across South America, posing a health issue with global impact. A significant number of South American women who came into contact with the virus for the first time at the start of their pregnancy by a mosquito bite subsequently gave birth to children with severe disabilities. The babies suffered from a condition known as microcephaly; they were born with a brain that was too small. This can lead to intellectual disabilities and other serious neurological disorders.
Scientists succeeded in proving that these deformities are caused by Zika virus infections, but so far they have been unable to explain why. Andreas Pichlmair, Chair for Viral Immunopathology at TUM, and his team from the TUM Institute of Virology and MPI-B have examined how Zika virus influences human brain cells. They identified the virus proteins with the potential to affect neuronal development in the developing brain.