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Zika Virus Update: 100 Cases in New Jersey
September 9th, 2016

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, there are currently 100 cases of Zika in New Jersey. Zika is a viral infection that is usually spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.

“There’s certainly no cause for panic locally,” explains HackensackUMC Mountainside Chief Medical Officer Dr. Theresa Soroko, a board-certified infectious disease specialist.

“We can and should, however, make prudent lifestyle decisions in response to the emergence of Zika as a global health concern,” adds Dr. Soroko. “Various types of mosquitos are known carriers of illnesses including Zika and West Nile, so precautions such as use of a safe and effective repellent when outdoors is recommended. Those in certain categories such as pregnant women and their partners should also heed advisories about travel to specific destinations in the Caribbean, Central and South America.”

Scientists and doctors are hard at work on a vaccine for Zika. In fact, researchers at the National Institutes for Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) have identified compounds that potentially can be used to inhibit Zika virus replication and reduce its ability to kill brain cells. These compounds now can be studied by the broader research community to help combat the Zika public health crisis.

Using NCATS’ drug repurposing screening robots, researchers identified two classes of compounds effective against Zika: one is antiviral, and the other prevents Zika-related brain cell death. The compounds include emricasan, an investigational drug currently being evaluated in a clinical trial to reduce liver injury and fibrosis, and niclosamide, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drug for use in humans to treat worm infections.

In addition, the researchers identified nine cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors. CDK usually is involved in regulation of cellular processes as well as normal brain development, but the Zika virus can negatively affect this process.

NCATS’ work was a collaborative effort with Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, (JHU) and Florida State University, Tallahassee, (FSU), and the study results were published in the August 29 issue of Nature Medicine. The NCATS screening effort builds on the initial research by JHU and FSU scientists, who discovered that the Zika virus infects brain cells early in development. Infection by the Zika virus may be related to fetal microcephaly, an abnormally small head resulting from an underdeveloped and/or damaged brain.

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