Biologists are scrambling to tackle a new virus now threatening to invade human population centres in the Caribbean and warm parts of Europe and the US. Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) reappeared on islands in the Indian Ocean and Asia around 2000, when a genetic mutation allowed it to be carried by the Tiger mosquito – a breed adapted to temperate climates. Although CHIKV is rarely fatal, the lack of effective treatment means it poses serious health risks with Dengue fever-like symptoms, and in some cases, sleeping sickness. To visualise how the virus spreads through hosts, biologists have taken snapshots of infected zebrafish larvae (pictured) at 48, 72 and 96 hours (bottom image) post-infection. The immune response (red) of infected tissue allowed them to track the rise and death of cells, and to discover that neutrophils – a type of white blood cell – could efficiently suppress the spread of the virus.
Written by Tristan Farrow
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