German, French, and UK Researchers have sequence and analyzed the genome of a WHO reference strain of Zika virus.
The Zika virus
belongs to the Flavivirus
genus under the Flaviviridae family. Almost 70 years after it was being discovered in Uganda, it is now sadly spreading all across Central and South Americas, the Pacific, as well as the Caribbean.
Its infections are often causes mild disease or asymptomatic. But extreme complications have recently been occurring. This includes abnormalities in the central nervous systems in fetuses and Guillain-Barré syndrome - a disorder where the body’s immune system assaults portion of the outlying nervous system) for adults.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the current endemic a state of public health emergency scoped at international concern due to the complications.
Dr. Sally Baylis – from Paul-Ehrlich-Institut in Langen, Germany, and her team of co-authors have sequenced the Zika virus strain that will be utilized as a WHO reference to detect Zika infection in the blood.
The said strain, named Zika virus strain PF13/251013-18, was carefully isolated from a patient, French Polynesian, in 2013. The complete sequence for PF13/251013-18 bears 10,769 base pairs, according to the research team.
“Reference standards from the WHO are used to harmonize assays for diagnostic testing, particularly in the case of acute infection, as well as assays that might be used to screen blood for transfusions, and to define regulatory requirements for test sensitivity where screening is implemented,” said Dr. Baylis, senior author of a paper reporting the results in the journal Genome Announcements.
Although the material for reference will still undergo formal review from the World Health Organization later in Oct. 2016, the agency has already given a greenlight to use the strain due to the urgency of the need to produce medical products for diagnosing and treating Zika.
“WHO’s go-ahead before it’s expert committee meeting in October reflects the urgent need for researchers and companies to access valid reference material to diagnose Zika virus infection,” Dr. Baylis explained.
“This will facilitate the development of sensitive, better performing tests to detect Zika in patients.”