According to US Scientists, the harmful Zika virus that causes brain damage in babies may be able to offer a new treatment for adult brain cancer, Glioblastoma. The Zika Virus is mostly spread by the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito which bites during the day and night. During 2015-2016, there was an epidemic of the Zika virus which caused the deaths of many infants and many adults contracted this virus causing them to be in pain for days.

Cancer is a term reserved for malignant tumors. Some brain cancers occur when one type of cell transforms from its normal characteristics. Once transformed, the cells grow and multiply in abnormal ways.

As these abnormal cells grow, they become a mass or tumor.

Research found by Washington University

In a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers at Washington University who used mice as their experimental subject found that Zika injections reduced the cancerous tumors, leaving the surrounding brain cells unaffected. Glioblastoma originates from stem cells which divide and grow the same rate the cancer grows at. Since Zika is known to attack stem cells in the fetus’ brain, it can be used to infect stem cells in brain tumors.

The virus kills the stem cells of glioblastoma tumors which radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery often fail to target. After treatment, these cells can keep on growing and dividing, forming new cancers and allowing tumors to regrow. The researchers infected human brain tumor tissue with the Zika virus in the lab and found that it successfully killed Tumor Stem Cells.

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When the same experiment was done using healthy brain tissue, Zika did not infect normal brain cells. It seems the virus targets tumor stem cells over both non-stem cancer cells and healthy cells.

Live mice with tumors were also injected with Zika and placebo. Those injected with the Zika virus developed smaller tumors and lived considerably longer than their placebo counterparts. In combination with chemotherapy, the Zika virus could be used to create a unique treatment for glioblastoma patients. Chemotherapy and radiation is good at targeting already formed tumor cells but not so well at killing stem cells. However, Zika's affinity for stem cells solves this problem.

Researchers are already modifying the virus to make it safe to use. They have weakened its ability to tackle the body's immune defenses meaning that it shouldn't grow in healthy cells. Cancer cells already have weak defenses so the Zika virus could still attack them.

Dr. Michael Diamonds remarks on research

According to Dr, Michael Diamond, a professor of molecular microbiology, pathology and immunology, “We take a virus, learn how it works and then we leverage it.

Let us take advantage of what it’s good at, use it to eradicate cells we don’t want. Take viruses that would normally do some damage and make them do some good. It looks like there's a silver lining to Zika. This virus that targets cells that are very important for brain growth in babies, we could use that now to target growing tumors. Once we add a few more changes, I think it's going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease."