Scientists in Britain think that they could attack aggressive brain cancer by using Zika virus. They hope that this strong virus can produce the same adverse effects on brain cancer as it produces on developing brains such as babies’.

They will focus on glioblastoma, which is one of the most common forms of cancer. They are testing Zika in mice in a lab to asset its potential in the brain.

Image credit: NBC News
Image credit: NBC News

“We’re taking a different approach, and want to use these new insights to see if the virus can be unleashed against one of the hardest-to-treat cancers,” said Harry Bulstrode, a lead researcher at Cambridge University.

Zika could be the key to future treatments

The latest Zika outbreak started in 2015 in South America and the Caribbean. This is a mosquito-borne virus that produced outbreaks in 51 different countries. Most of the people affected showed flu-like symptoms. However, the illness was worse for pregnant women because it was proven that Zika could cause severe congenital disabilities to the developing fetuses including microcephaly, which means babies were born with abnormally small heads. As well, it caused damage to the brain and spinal cord infections. This happens because Zika attacks developing stem cells in the fetuses’ brains. That is why, during that period, pregnant women were advised not to travel to infected areas. The effects the Zika outbreak had on children and babies is still a major global health concern.

However, the neurological damage that Zika produces in the developing brains of fetuses did not attack adults with the disease because their brains are fully developed. That is why scientists think that Zika could help them fight brain tumors.

They are focusing in the glioblastoma, a type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 5 percent. The cancer cells of this terrible brain cancer are similar to those cells in the developing brains; therefore, the Zika virus could be used in adult patients to attack and destroy such cells. Scientists say that healthy brain tissue would not be harmed; however, this treatment would have to be given at small doses. Certainly, achieving this without compromising the health of the rest of the brain tissue is the biggest challenge.

Gglioblastoma. Image credit:
Gglioblastoma. Image credit:

“We hope to show that the Zika virus can slow down brain tumor growth in tests in the lab,” Bulstrode added. “If we can learn lessons from Zika’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and target brain stem cells selectively, we could be holding the key to future treatments.”

The blood-brain barrier is an important aspect to consider when treating diseases in the brain. It is a highly selective membrane that prevents any potentially toxic substances from entering the brain.

Researchers at Cambridge University will use tumor cells and the Zika virus in a dish and on mice to calculate the outcomes.

It is too early to predict the outcomes

Having understood the way the virus has attacked stem cells, they believe Zika can reduce the growth of brain tumors. However, it is far too early to know it that can be successful. According to Bulstrode, it is impossible to say how long it will take before the first results are ready. However, if they are successful, they could come up with new treatments for people with glioblastoma, which is currently diagnosed in 2300 people each year in the U.K. However, they feel optimist that Zika come out to be useful not just for the treatment of glioblastoma but as well, for the treatment of other diseases too.

“It’s also possible that what the researchers discover could be applied more broadly to stem cells—cells that are treatment-resistant and can cause the disease to return—in other types of cancer. But at the moment it’s too early to tell whether that will be the case.” Said Bulstrode.

Mosquitos can transmit Zika and other diseases in the same bite

While scientists in Britain are trying to find a positive use for Zika, another study at the Colorado State University shows that mosquitos that spread Zika can also transmit other diseases all at once. The Aedes Aegypty can transmit dengue, zika, and chikungunya in the same bite.

Scientists exposed 48 mosquitos to chikungunya, Zika, dengue or different combination of the three. They also exposed other 48 mosquitoes to the three viruses at the same time. Then they examined the saliva and legs of the insects to see if they got infected. 92 percent of them had all the three viruses. Just one of then remained uninfected.

Six saliva samples tested positive 14 days after exposure while two tested positive 21 days after being exposed. Not all of them showed the infection in the saliva samples. However, that doesn’t mean that the ones that didn’t demonstrate the virus in the saliva samples are not able to transmit the disease.

Greg Ebel, the study co-author,  said that he thought that the viruses would compete against each other, but they all had mechanisms to suppress the mosquito immunity leading to synergy. Ebel is the director of the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory.

Source: Fox News Health