Researchers from HKU established a new animal model for studying the pathogenesis, treatments and vaccines for Zika virus. The team led by Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, Dr Jasper Chan Fuk-woo and Dr Anna Zhang Jinxia found that immunosuppressed mice developed disseminated infection and inflammation in multiple organs, including the testis. The mice were effectively treated by recombinant type 1 interferons. The work has been published in EBioMedicine.
Despite having been discovered in Uganda for almost 60 years, <20 human cases of Zika infection were reported before 2007. The massive epidemics in the Pacific islands associated with the ZIKV Asian lineage in 2007 and 2013 were followed by explosive outbreaks in Latin America in 2015.
Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, explained that the virus usually stays in the blood for around two weeks.
“The risk of an outbreak in Hong Kong is not particularly high at the moment, as it is not unexpected that we will have imported cases,” he said. “But it’s more if the city sees its first local case. The coming two to three weeks will be very critical.”
A research team lead by Professor Jiandong Huang at HKU engineered the Salmonella into an anaerobe bacterium named YB1 which only survive and thrive in hypoxic regions inside solid tumours. YB1 can effectively inhibit the growth of tumours while being safe to normal tissues. The researchers hope that YB1 can be further developed into a tumour-targeting agent in the near future.
Professor Jiandong Huang at the School of Biomedical Sciences of Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine said, “Owing to the property that YB1 can survive in tumour, it can be viewed as a ‘guided missile’ to deliver destructive ‘warheads’ to the tumour tissue by means of delivering therapeutic proteins and drugs, resulting in tumour regression.”
Bin Yu, Mei Yang, Lei Shi, Yandan Yao, Qinqin Jiang, Xuefei Li, Lei-Han Tang, Bo-Jian Zheng, Kwok-Yung Yuen, David K. Smith, Erwei Song, and Jian-Dong Huang (2012) Explicit hypoxia targeting with tumor suppression by creating an “obligate” anaerobic Salmonella Typhimurium strain. Scientific Reports 2: 436.