Cell, mice experiments reveal antibodies gone rogue
Laguna Design/Science Source
Being immune to a virus is a good thing, until it’s not. That’s the lesson from a study that sought to understand the severity of the Zika outbreak in Brazil. Experiments in cells and mice suggest that a previous exposure to dengue or West Nile can make a Zika virus infection worse.
“Antibodies you generate from the first infection … can facilitate entry of the Zika virus into susceptible cells, exacerbating the disease outcome,” says virologist Jean K. Lim. Lim and colleagues report the results online March 30 in Science.
The study is the first to demonstrate this effect in mice, as well as the first to implicate West Nile virus, notes Sharon Isern, a molecular virologist at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
Zika is similar to other members of its viral family, the flaviviruses. It shares about 60 percent of its genetic information with