The Zika virus, which in recent years has attracted attention not only in the scientific field, has been the subject of research by a group of neuroscientists at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil.
Zika virus can also infect adult human tissue
Researchers exposed small fragments of adult human brain tissue to the Zika virus in turn isolated from an infected patient. The researchers found that the virus can infect not only immature neurons in the developing brain but can also infect and deposit in adult human tissue. In this way, it can produce new copies and thus infect even larger areas.
Zika virus produces memory deterioration
They then injected the Zika virus into mice’ brains and noticed a deterioration in memory, which persisted even after the virus had been defeated by the body. This thing, moreover, as reported by Claudia P. Figueiredo and Sergio T. Ferreira, who conducted the research together with the virologist Andrea Da Poian, shows that the main areas where the Zika virus replicates in the brain are those responsible for learning and memory processing.
Zika virus causes inflammatory response in the brain
The same researchers have finally shown that infection with the Zika virus causes a strong inflammatory response in the brain of mice and this caused the activation of the microglia, ie the immune cells in the brain.
Fernanda Barros-Aragão, one of the authors of the study, explains this inflammatory response as follows: “Neurons communicate through highly specialized regions called synapses. Surprisingly, we found that the microglia that aberrantly activates on infection from a ZIKV attack attacks and swallows the synapses. This compromises communication between neurons and thus the formation of new memories. Interestingly, when the animals were treated for about a week with anti-inflammatory drugs that could block the activation of the microglia, they recovered their memory.”
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