Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)
Unfortunately, the Zika virus was responsible for more than 2,300 babies born with microcephaly and the so-called Zika Congenital Syndrome (ZCS) in Brazil. Adding to important contributions on Zika research made by many Brazilian institutions, FAPESP’s efforts have resulted in some original findings.
Zika epidemics in South America showed a new spectrum of the disease, including the emergence of ZCS, suggesting that other factors might be at play. Due to the large circulation of the dengue virus, a hypothesis was raised that immunity to the dengue virus could facilitate the establishment of ZCS, based in a phenomenon called Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE). ADE is an in vitro observation in which sub-neutralizing concentrations of antibody can facilitate cell infection, and has been proposed as a central hypothesis for severe dengue pathogenesis. At least one report was published showing this event in severe immunocompromised mice, leading many authors to suggest that ADE might be responsible for ZCS, which would be an impediment to dengue vaccination.
In a recent FAPESP sponsored report (Terzian et al. Jun 20, 2017, Clin. Infect. Dis.), the authors compared the hallmarks of clinical ADE (like viremia, clinical symptoms and cytokine levels) in both dengue naïve and exposed patients and showed no evidence of ADE. More observations should be done in this area but the work mentioned gives confidence that ADE, in severe Zika cases, has a low probability to occur.
Another study (Kam Y-W et al., 2017, J. Infect. Dis., 216, 171-181) published a report identifying several biomarkers for the control of Zika virus pathogenesis. While several immune mediators were detected in high levels in ZIKV-infected patients, in this study, the levels of interleukin 10 (IL-10), interferon γ-induced protein (IP-10) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) were significantly different between patients with and without neurological complications.
FAPESP is the acronym for the name, in Portuguese, of the São Paulo Research Foundation. São Paulo is one of the 27 Brazilian states. FAPESP was founded in 1962 and since that time has received 1% of all state taxes and revenues. In the beginning of 2016, FAPESP started financing projects on Zika research, giving additives to ongoing virology projects in a fast-track system.