Matthew Aliota, Ph.D., Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, told us while all of the recent mouse models that have been characterized for ZIKV are immunocompromised, the main difference with the new model is that lack three types of interferons – alpha, beta, and gamma.
According to Aliota, most mice models lack alpha and beta interferons, but not gamma; and while he said their model is not necessarily a better model, it does facilitate the ability to ask different questions.
For example, Dengue virus does not infect immunocompetent mice, so the researchers can ask what role prior exposure to dengue virus might have on infection with ZIKV.
“The other big difference is that we characterized the damage to the brain caused by the virus,” added Aliota.
To infect the mice, the team injected the Zika virus into the foot pads and under their skin. From there, the virus spread through the body and into the brain. According to the researchers, the virus was 100 percent fatal in mice at all doses.
While the researchers will use the mouse models to study vaccines and antivirals, it also gives them the opportunity to examine how the virus works, including whether it can replicate.
“It’s scary to know so little about something that can be so devastating,” said Katrina Larkin, a UW–Madison undergraduate student and a study co-author. “Learning how instrumental animal models can be to combating diseases makes this work even more urgent.”