Until now, the Zika virus has threatened public health all over the world and affected all kinds of people, especially pregnant women. However, U.S. scientists found a way to treat brain cancer with this mosquito-borne virus.

According to a study published on September 5 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, and the University of California, San Diego, have found a way to treat glioblastoma- one of the deadliest and most complicated cancers – by killing damaged brain cells using the Zika virus.

Brain Tumor MRI. Image Credit: Mayo Clinic
Brain Tumor MRI. Image Credit: Mayo Clinic

It turns out that injecting the Zika virus can serve as a treatment for individual cancerous brain cells in adults, killing those brain tumors that are so difficult to treat. According to the researchers, this experiment has only been performed in fully grown mice. However, they have also injected the Zika treatment into human brain cells at the laboratory.

Researchers believe these results bring a lot of hope for the development of a brain cancer treatment. They expect that the mosquito-borne virus could be injected in the future into humans to remove dangerous tumors while the patient is under surgery.

The last time Zika re-emerged was in 2015, affecting millions of people in Brazil before it expanded all over the American continent. According to the World Health Organization, the virus is carried by the Aedes mosquito and transmitted through its bite, affecting all kinds of people, but most of all pregnant women, whose babies tend to born with severe brain defects.

The disease is transmitted by two mosquitoes, the Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus, both of which are found in the United States. Photo credit: Salud y Amor Blogspot

According to the Washington University School of Medicine researcher, Milan Chheda, “it is so frustrating to treat a patient as aggressively as we know how, only to see his or her tumor recur a few months later. We wondered whether nature could provide a weapon to target the cells most likely responsible for this return.”

The Zika treatment might be used for the most lethal of all brain cancers

Glioblastomas (GBM) are malignant tumors that spread easily all over the brain due to the vast network of blood vessels inside of the organ, killing most of all diagnosed patients in the first two years. According to EurekAlert, these tumors affect stem cells and force them to create more infected cells. Their reproduction is so quickly that doctors are compelled to kill all of those damaged cells before they remove the brain tumor by surgery.

Those tumors can avoid the immune system of the body, and are extremely resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. Unfortunately, they are ubiquitous among adults.

This is why researchers have so much hope due to this new Zika treatment. The only thing they might need is to perform a surgery and inject the Zika treatment in the brain tumor, avoiding all other aggressive medical treatments.

“Once we add a few more changes, I think it’s going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease,” said the researcher Dr. Michael Diamond. “It looks like there’s a silver lining to Zika. This virus that targets cells that are very important for brain growth in babies, we could use that now to target growing tumours.” The BBC reported.

Source: The Journal of Experimental Medicine