Researchers have discovered a piece in the puzzle of how the Zika virus spreads in human cells and neutralizes the body’s defenses.
A study by scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine answered a fundamental question posed by biologists: What happens when the virus enters a human cell?
Zika infections lead to modifications in the genetic material of both the virus itself and humans’ immune systems, influencing the virus’ spread and the body’s immune response, according to the researchers. Their study was published last week in Cell Host & Microbe.
While humans’ genetic material is made up of DNA and RNA, some viruses’ genomes — including Zika and HIV — are comprised only of RNA. In humans, RNA carries genetic information from DNA to create new cells.
Researchers found that when the Zika virus infected a human cell, the cell modified viral RNA to get rid of the infection. But that adaptation triggered human enzymes that may have impacted the cell’s protective shield. The Zika infection also induced modifications on human RNA, according to the study.