Zika Virus Outsmarts Cell’s Antiviral Response, Reveal Researchers

In a recent study about the Zika virus, scientists from the North-western University point out how uniquely the virus evades the cell’s antiviral response while it attacks us. The new findings are available in the Journal of Virology and make us aware of how these viruses attack cells, escape the natural immune shield and replicate the same, which is crucial to fight against them. 

Before the outbreak of SARS- CoV-2, Zika virus has been the cause of viral infections in recent times, with no availability of drugs and vaccines for it. The Northwestern researchers unfold the mechanism of the virus to gain entry into the cells by suppressing the interferon signaling – an essential aspect of the antiviral immune response. Interferon signaling is an instantaneous response of the cell towards a foreign body. Therefore, if Zika successfully evades the first line of armor, it can easily duplicate the cell. 

The research paper describes how Zika virus uses a protein known as NS5 and targets antiviral response, STAT2, to evade the detection by protective cells. It corrupts the STAT2 protein and completely blocks the interferon response of the cell. 

Horvath heads the researchers’ team and says that SARS-CoV-2 is complex than Zika virus, escapes immune barrier, and is more harmful comparatively. 

The awareness about how these viruses escape the cell’s antiviral response will be beneficial for preparedness for the pandemic.  The research team deploys the microscopic fluorescence technique and molecular biology to study and dissect the importance of the Zika virus STAT-2 interactions. These findings further help us develop new ways to establish target-driven therapeutics, including drugs and vaccines.