Two teams of WashU scientists collaborate to fight Zika

Washington University School of Medicine researchers Michael Diamond, MD, PhD, and Daved Fremont, PhD, began investigating Zika virus several months ago, after learning of birth defects and other unusual complications that appear to be related to the mosquito-borne disease. (Photo: E. Holland Durando/Washington University)

For several months, two collaborating teams of scientists at Washington University School of Medicine – both focused on emerging infectious diseases – have redirected their efforts to concentrate on Zika virus.

An outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus which began in April 2015 in South America has been linked to a startling surge of babies born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains, a condition known as microcephaly, prompting new research aimed at answering critical questions about the virus.

Michael Diamond quickly mobilized his laboratory, shifting multiple researchers to work on Zika. “We’ve got a lot of students and postdoctoral fellows working right now to try to understand Zika virus infection and its potential complications,” said Diamond, whose earlier research on West Nile led to an investigational antibody therapy for that disease.

“We’ve made good progress in a short amount of time and are enthusiastic about where we can go from here with the tools that our groups are developing,” Daved Fremont said.

The Washington University teams have logged countless hours in the laboratory – probing the Zika virus, and generating antibodies and viral proteins – laying the groundwork for the development of a precise diagnostic test for Zika as well as therapeutics and an eventual vaccine.

Read the full story in the School of Medicine News Hub: Scientists team up to fight Zika