Yale: Study finds Protection from Zika Virus May Lie in a Protein Derived from Mosquitoes
By targeting a protein found in the saliva of mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus, Yale investigators reduced Zika infection in mice. The finding demonstrates how researchers might develop a vaccine against Zika and similar mosquito-borne viruses, the study authors said.
There is no current vaccine or therapy for Zika virus infection, which caused substantial illness, including birth defects, during the 2015 outbreak that impacted over a million people in the Americas. One source of a potential vaccine strategy is the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries and transmits the virus. A Yale research team recently focused on proteins found in the saliva of these mosquitoes and how they might affect Zika transmission.
Led by the section chief for Infectious Diseases at Yale School of Public Health, Dr. Erol Fikrig, the team isolated antibodies from the blood of mice bitten by mosquitoes. They performed a genomic screen to identify mosquito proteins and tested the proteins for their effect in cell culture, as well as in infected mice models, against Zika virus. They pinpointed one protein, AgBR1, that exacerbated Zika infection in mice.
In further experiments, the researchers examined how blocking AgBR1 might influence Zika infection. They developed an AgBR1 antiserum and gave it to mice, which were then bitten by Zika-virus infected mosquitoes. The team observed that the antiserum reduced the level of Zika virus in the animals over time and that it also provided partial protection from full-blown disease and death.
The study shows that antibodies to the mosquito protein can protect animals from Zika virus infection. While more research is needed, these results could lead to a vaccine.