As a matter of fact, we did not know what it looks like — until now, that is. A new report authored by researchers from the Purdue University’s Institute for Inflammation, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases based in the US describes the features of the virus which turns out to be spherical, bearing close resemblance with the dengue virus.
“You finally can see what this thing really looks like,” says Richard Kuhn, director of the institute, and one of the authors.
Zika is a flavivirus, like the dengue virus, which is why they look somewhat alike, but they do have some differences as revealed by the 3D structure of the Zika virus which has been unveiled for the first time by the same team who showed the structure of the dengue virus more than a decade ago.
The scientists have found that the outer shell of the virus is a bit different from other viruses’ in terms of the proteins making it up. The authors suggest that this might account for how the virus attacks nerve cells; the updated knowledge might help researchers to combat the virus. Kuhn points out that the outer shell will be their starting point in trying to create disturbances in the virus. This might also pave the way for better diagnosis, or even to a vaccine.
Ever since the epidemic broke in Brazil and spread to neighbouring countries last year, efforts to counter the effects of the virus have been multiplying. Only 20% of infected people actually develop symptoms of the diseases which is mostly harmless. However, infection with Zika has been linked with cases of microcephaly — this is why researchers have been attempting to understand the workings of the Zika.