Scientists from China and the U.S. have found a protein used against the Zika virus, which could also be used in inhibiting HIV.
The scientists said that cholesterol-25-hydroxylase (CH25H) was induced in response to Zika infection, and that its enzymatic product, 25-hydroxycholesterol (25HC), was a critical mediator in host protection against Zika, news site chinanews.com reported on Wednesday.
The results were jointly published in the medical journal Immunity by the Suzhou Institute of Systems Medicine based in East China's Jiangsu Province, which is under the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and other institutes such as the University of California at Los Angeles.
Dr. Li Chunfeng, who was involved in the research, said that scientists from China and the U.S. found the 25HC's anti-virus effects in 2013 and studied the possibility of inhibiting Zika after the disease broke out.
Synthetic 25HC addition inhibited Zika infection in vitro by blocking viral entry, and treatment with 25HC reduced viremia and provided protection against Zika in mice and rhesus macaques, according to a chinanews.com report.
“Theoretically, this could work on humans as well. We will start clinical tests to try to prove 25HC's effectiveness in humans,” Cheng Genhong, the general director of the Suzhou Institute of Systems Medicine, said.
Researchers have also found that 25HC could inhibit viruses such as HIV and Ebola. They will continue joint research to try to control new infectious diseases, chinanes.com said.
Zika, first found in Brazil in 2015, is primarily transmitted by the tropical mosquito Aedes aegypti. It is estimated that between one and 13 percent of women infected by the virus during early pregnancy give birth to infants with microcephaly, a condition characterized by an undersized head and brain damage, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
No treatment is currently available to prevent Zika virus from harming the fetus, and the biological mechanism through which microcephaly arises as a result of infection remains unclear.
In 2016, Brazil had 214,000 suspected cases of Zika, Xinhua reported.