Could Zika Virus Be the Answer to Brain Cancer?

You may have spent the summer dousing yourself in mosquito spray or staying indoors, especially if youíre a pregnant woman. Ever since its debut, many scientists have worked hard to find a vaccine for the Zika virus. While thereís no vaccine on the market yet, many scientists are exploring another, more potent, use for the virus: treating brain cancer.

The Virus

Zika was first discovered in monkeys in Africa in the 1950s, with the first large human outbreak in 2007 on the Island of Yap. But you probably first heard of the virus during the summer of 2016 when the Olympics were getting underway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Despite all the hoopla, there were zero cases of Zika reported during the Olympics. It was mainly locals who were contracting the virus.

Most people who are infected with Zika show no symptoms or only mild symptoms, like fever, rash, headache or joint or muscle pain. The deleterious effects of the virus that sparked the media frenzy are seen when pregnant women become infected. These babies are likely born with microcephaly, a smaller than average head size with brain tissue that hasnít fully developed, which handicaps the child for life.

What is it about babies that the Zika virus likes so much? Fast growing cells. And what are cancer cells? Fast growing cells. So you can imagine the excitement of scientists when they realized the potential cancer-fighting effects of the Zika virus.

Brain Cancer

Glioblastomas are a nasty brain cancer with an average life expectancy of less than two years. These particular cancer cells grow very quickly and spread throughout the brain tissue in such a way that makes it difficult to precisely remove all of the tumor through brain resection. Not long after a brain resection, new tumor cells develop near the resection site. Other treatments like radiation and chemo can be used, but usually with little success. In short, itís a death sentence.

Research published this Sept showed that injections of the Zika virus into mice shrinks brain tumors while leaving the other brain tissue intact. In addition to tests on mice, the research showed Zika in action with human tissue in a petri dish with similar results. The next step in the process is to test the virus on human patients, but thatís still in the future. Scientists are simultaneously working to reduce the negative effects of Zika. So one day a modified version of the Zika virus could be the answer to brain cancer.

In the aftermath of the media hype, people are still highly concerned about mosquitos and various viral transmissions. You should be aware but it never helps anyone to be overly worrisome. Simply remember to wear protective spray and long-sleeved shirts and pants for optimal protection, especially if youíre pregnant.

While you might not see a Zika vaccine anytime soon, since itís no longer a world health emergency, you very well could see Zika as a treatment for cancer in the next few years.

Related:
8 Natural Mosquito Repellents
DEET Mosquito Repellents Linked to Brain Damage
Easily Custom Make Your Own Insect Repellent

Photo Credit: Pixabay

40 comments

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Paulo Reeson
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