Genetics in Zika and HIV drug approvals – the week in infectious diseases



Research this week has looked further into the congenital Zika syndrome. First up, a study of twins exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy revealed differential expression of 60 genes that could be responsible for the varying susceptibility infants have to Zika complications. The researchers assessed 91 pairs of twins, suggesting that congenital Zika syndrome is not a random event but is underpinned by genetic background.

In addition, researchers have suggested that brain damage as a result of Zika infection may go undetected in pregnancy. They discovered that the virus can cause significant damage to the fetal brain even when the baby’s head size is normal, suggesting that all Zika-exposed children should be assessed for long-term neurological issues regardless of the current key indicator, head size.


The big news in HIV this week was the FDA approval of the once-daily, single-tablet therapy Biktarvy, developed by Gilead Sciences (Uxbridge, UK). The therapy is indicated for use in adults with no history of antiretroviral treatment or to as a replacement antiretroviral regimen in virologically suppressed patients with no history of treatment failure and no known mutations linked to resistance to the individual therapies.

Also in HIV this week, scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz (CA, USA) developed new methods for the production of HIV vaccines, including the production of stable cell lines and the creation a method to produce HIV envelope proteins containing glycans.


A recently published study has indicated that yaws eradication will require more than a single round of mass drug treatment – as indicated in the current WHO strategy – as re-emergence and the presence of antibiotic-resistant strains has been discovered. Consequently, the researchers urge that drug-resistance monitoring be implemented in action guidelines for affected countries.


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