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Zika Infection may Be Masked by Other Viral Infections

Zika Infection may Be Masked by Other Viral Infections

Symptoms of infection with the Zika virus in Brazil may be masked by simultaneous infection with other mosquito-spread viruses common in the same region—such as dengue fever and chikungunya viruses—pointing to the need for comprehensive testing, according to a study led by a UCSF expert in DNA-based diagnostics in collaboration with Brazilian researchers. Using sophisticated genetic fingerprinting techniques that can identify multiple co-infections, a research team led by Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, associate professor of laboratory medicine and of medicine, and director of the UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center at UCSF, found two cases of co-infection with the chikungunya virus among 15 previously confirmed Zika cases from the state of Bahia, Brazil, diagnosed from April 2015 to January 2016. “With these viruses, the symptoms associated with acute illness, including fever, rash, joint pains and conjunctivitis, are non-specific, so it is difficult to make an accurate diagnosis based on clinical findings alone,” Chiu said. “It’s easy to imagine a physician failing to detect Zika when they instead suspect a different virus that causes similar symptoms, and then their suspicion is confirmed by a diagnostic test designed to detect only that virus – they might easily miss a co-infection if they do not test for more than one virus.” Curtailing an Outbreak In most cases of infection, Zika itself causes no symptoms or relatively minor symptoms. In a collaboration with Silvia Sardi, PhD, of the Federal University of Bahia, one of the first scientists to identify Zika as the cause of the Brazilian outbreak, Chiu used a single “metagenomic” laboratory test that can detect virtually any known virus to analyze...
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