One year after the Zika virus was first confirmed in Latin America, the response from the global scientific community has been resolute, and Southern Research has been there every step of the way.
Experts in our Drug Discovery and Drug Development divisions are working with a sense of urgency to establish the pipelines needed to support research on the fundamental questions behind the virus.
With unique in vitro models and Nonhuman Primate (NHP) and GLP capabilities, our infectious disease research team is fully prepared to add significant value to the development of prophylactic and therapeutic strategies against Zika.
Current capabilities and available services include:
In vitro Models for ZIKV
- Antiviral Assays
- A sensitive virus yield assay for evaluation of Antivirals against Zika Virus
- Screening of compounds and biologics
- Mechanism of Action studies
In vivo Models for ZIKV
- Zika cynomolgus macaque model
Application: Vaccine immunogenicity, efficacy and safety
- Zika AG129 Mouse model
Application: Efficacy testing of candidate Zika antivirals and biologics
- Developing a non-human primate model for ZIKV product evaluation in accordance with NIAID contract number: HHSN2722010000221
Subject Matter Expert (SME) consultancy
- Guidance for drug discovery and development studies
- Conducting High Throughput Screening of Zika virus
Southern Research Press
Southern Research’s work on Zika Virus
– Abstracts / Papers
- Goebel et al.: A sensitive virus yield assay for evaluation of Antivirals against Zika Virus
- Koide et al.: Development of a Zika Virus Infection Model in Cynomolgus Macaques
– Talks / Presentations
- Koide et al., poster presentation, ASM 2017: Development of a Zika Virus Infection Model in Cynomolgus Macaques
- Koide et al., poster presentation, 1st International Conference on Zika Virus 2017: Natural History of Zika Virus Isolates from Africa, Asia and the America’s in Rhesus Macaques of Indian Origin
– Research Related News and Breakthroughs
Articles and TV Appearances
- Southern Research contracted for drug discovery (Birmingham Business Journal: November 7, 2016)
- NDSU Student from Brazil researching Zika (KFGO, Fargo: October 12, 2016)
- From peanuts to Zika, Southern Research marks 75 years of science (AL.com: September 21, 2016)
- Birmingham’s Southern Research uses innovative strategies to target Zika (Alabama NewsCenter: August 26, 2016)
- Zika researcher: Sex could play bigger role than mosquitoes in U.S. transmission (AL.com: August 26, 2016)
- Battling Zika and other diseases like it (The Bio Report Podcast with Daniel Levine: August 25, 2016)
- AL researchers on front lines of search for Zika cure (WSFA: July 28, 2016)
- New contract to study Zika in Birmingham (Weld for Birmingham: July, 28, 2016)
- Zika Researchers hold conference in Atlanta amid outbreak (Associated Press: May 2, 2016)
- Zika Researchers hold conference in Atlanta amid outbreak (WHDN News 7, Boston: May 2, 2016)
- New test for Zika (WELD for Birmingham: March 28, 2016)
- Frederick scientists develop test to accelerate Zika virus research (Frederick News-Post: March 25, 2016)
- How Southern Research is working to limit the spread of Zika virus (Birmingham Business Journal: March 22, 2016)
- Birmingham lab working on Zika virus cure (WVTM 13: February 3, 2016)
- Alabama lab working on cure for Zika virus linked to birth defects (AL.com: February 2, 2016)
Q&A on Zika virus
What is Zika?
Zika is a small RNA based virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquito that is spreading rapidly through the Western Hemisphere. It belongs to the same virus family as dengue, yellow fever, and the West Nile, but has proven to be much more complex than the others. For example, Zika is the only virus of the family that can be sexually transmitted. It is also linked to microcephaly, a congenital birth defect that causes babies to be be born with small heads and underdeveloped brains, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and related maladies, as highlighted in this story from National Public Radio.
What should I do to protect myself from getting Zika?
The most important thing you can do is to educate yourself about the risks of Zika, and take precautions to prevent getting bit by mosquitos, including not traveling to affected areas. Additional precautions include:
- Wear bug repellant.
- Be aware that the mosquitos responsible for carrying Zika (the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus ) often live inside homes and other buildings.
- Remove areas of standing water from your home or yard where mosquitos may lay their eggs — it is very difficult to eradicate the mosquito because they only require a small amount of water in which to lay eggs. But, you can work to limit their density.
- Be smart about your travel decisions — if you travel to South America, Central America or the Caribbean, there is a reasonable chance you could be bitten by a mosquito carrying Zika.
- If you do travel, wear long sleeves indoors and outside (remember: the A. aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitoes often live indoors).
- Upon return from travel, be mindful of the public health and wear long sleeves for at least two weeks – the time period during which humans are most likely to spread the virus.
Should I travel?
Pregnant women, and anyone who is considering becoming pregnant, or who has a chance of becoming pregnant, are encouraged to strongly consider limiting travel to Zika prone regions.
According to the CDC, there are more than 30 countries and territories on a do-not-travel advisory list for at-risk persons. Most are located in the Americas and the South Pacific. While Zika outbreaks are have yet to spread in the United States, anyone traveling to South America, Central America or the Caribbean should be aware they face a chance of contracting Zika.
For a full list of questions and information about Zika related travel plans, see the latest from the CDC.
Why are we seeing more cases of Zika and microcephaly in the Western Hemisphere than in other parts of the world?
Zika has been present in equatorial Africa and the Asian Pacific for over 50 years, where the virus has been living in a relatively symbiotic relationship with the local populations. However, when viruses are introduced to new populations that are not predisposed to having the natural immune defenses needed to protect against the virus — such as in Brazil and the Western Hemisphere — they spread rapidly. This is generally what happens with an outbreak.
“Viruses generally exist within a niche host community, and they evolve within that niche over time. From an evolutionary perspective, it doesn’t benefit the virus to kill its host, or even make the host seriously ill. Whenever you hear of a situation where people are getting really, really sick, those people are not part of the natural host population for whatever virus is making them sick. Therefore, when a virus is introduced to a new population — as Zika was in Brazil and the Western Hemisphere — we end up seeing explosive growth in the number of adverse cases.”
– Jonathan Rayner, Ph.D., Director, Infectious Disease Research at Southern Research.
What are the symptoms and side effects?
Zika virus does not generally have many symptoms, so most people infected with the virus will not even know they have been infected. However, 1 in 5 people may develop symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Some people may also experience muscle pain and headache. Symptoms from Zika virus normally last from 2 to 7 days.
If you experience these symptoms, or have recently traveled, you should consult your doctor and tell your health care provider when and where you traveled. Members of at risk populations, such as pregnant women, women who are considering becoming pregnant, or who have a chance of becoming pregnant, and males who are sexually active, should take extra precautions to protect themselves from contact with mosquitos, and practice safe sex.
After becoming infected by Zika virus, it is believed that people are able to spread the virus over the course of the first two weeks. Therefore, it is important to think about the public health and limit your exposure to mosquitos for several weeks after travel to countries on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) watch list.
How do you become infected with Zika?
The most common method of transmission is through a mosquito bite. However, Zika can also spread through sexual transmission.
Is there a test for Zika?
While there are currently no quick diagnostic tests currently available for the Zika virus, scientists are working feverishly to develop these methods. In the meantime, it can be detected through blood tests, which often take a couple days to return. Visit the CDC for more information.
Where does Zika come from?
Zika originated in the Zika forests of Uganda in 1947. From Uganda, the virus spread to Micronesia in Southeast Asia. In 2007, the Asian strain is believed to have made its way across the South Pacific — a region of the world that also contained dengue and chickagunya. This strain is believed to be responsible for a 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia — where evidence of Guillain-Barré Synrdome first appeared.
The recent Zika virus outbreak was first realized in Brazil in May 2015, with the heaviest concentration of Zika related microcephaly cases appearing in the northeastern region of the country. Since then, the virus has spread throughout South and Central America, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. It is also present in the continental U.S. and expected to spread throughout the
What is Microcephaly?
Microcephaly is a congenital birth defect that causes children to be born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. It is believed to be caused by Zika as well as a number of other factors, including infections of the fetus, rubella, and other diseases.
Under normal conditions microcephaly occurs in 1 in approximately 5,000 to 10,000 births.
However, in recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed Zika related cases of microcephaly. A vast majority of these cases occurred in northeastern Brazil, and researchers are searching for answers to why there is a higher than normal concentration of microcephaly in this region.
There is currently no known treatment for microcephaly.
For more information, the World Health Organization has a wonderful fact sheet on microcephaly.