Eliza Bliss-Moreau and Koen Van Rompay (CNPRC), David O'Connor (WNPRC)

The NPRCs are at the forefront of research urgently needed to understand Zika virus, to help develop vaccines for it, and especially to prevent pregnant mothers from transmitting it to their unborn children.

The rapidly spreading mosquito-borne virus is strongly linked to fetal abnormalities including a neurological birth disorder called microcephaly, which results in smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development. Babies born with microcephaly have a limited life expectancy and poor brain function.

Transmitted through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito – the same insect that transmits Dengue – Zika has now spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning pregnant women not to travel to affected areas. Health officials in several affected areas are advising women to avoid becoming pregnant, in some cases for up to two years.

The Zika outbreak is a pandemic in progress, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (1).

The virus is mild for most people who acquire it, causing a fever, headache, rash and perhaps pink eye. The danger to pregnant mothers is the urgent concern and the main reason for the travel advisories. The virus may pass through the placenta to a growing fetus. This does not happen with the Dengue, West Nile or chikungunya viruses. Zika has been found in breast milk, but it has not yet been confirmed whether it can be passed to an infant through nursing. Immune-compromised people may also be at a higher risk of more serious illness. Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact (2).

The centers have strong research programs in global infectious diseases and experience researching Dengue, HIV, Ebola, malaria, Lyme disease, chikungunya, influenza and more.

There is an urgent need for researchers to understand the pathogenesis of Zika virus infection and especially how the virus affects the fetus and causes microcephaly. This information can then be used to help develop an effective vaccine or treatment for women, so doctors can prevent more birth defects and infant deaths.

A unique aspect of the NPRCs’ Zika research is that NPRC scientists are publishing online lab notebooks for anyone to see, rather than waiting to publish their data first in a scientific journal. (Please see the Live Research Updates section below). On Feb. 10, major government funding agencies and scientific journals released a statement supporting open-data sharing during public-health emergencies such as Zika. “In the context of a public-health emergency of international concern, there is an imperative on all parties to make any information available that might have value in combatting the crisis,” the statement read.

Article Citations

1. Zika Virus in the Americas — Yet Another Arbovirus Threat

2. Transmission of Zika Virus Through Sexual Contact with Travelers to Areas of Ongoing Transmission — Continental United States, 2016

Live Research Updates and Publications

CNPRC Zika Virus Research Blog

CPRC Zika Virus Research Page

ONPRC ZIKV NHP Model Development Pilot Project

WaNPRC Zika Research Page

WNPRC Zika Research Page

WNPRC Zika Open-Research Portal

There are currently 24 publications available for Zika virus.


Aliota MT, Bassit L, Bradrick SS, Cox B, Garcia-Blanco MA, Gavegnano C, Friedrich TC, Golos TG, Griffin DE, Haddow AD, Kallas EG, Kitron U, Lecuit M, Magnani DM, Marrs C, Mercer N, McSweegan E, Ng LFP, O'Connor DH, Osorio JE, Ribeiro GS, Ricciardi M, Rossi SL, Saade G, Schinazi RF, Schott-Lerner GO, Shan C, Shi PY, Watkins DI, Vasilakis N, Weaver SC.
Zika in the Americas, year 2: What have we learned? What gaps remain? A report from the Global Virus Network.
Antiviral Res. 2017 Aug; 144(): 223-246.

Bowen JR, Quicke KM, Maddur MS, O'Neal JT, McDonald CE, Fedorova NB, Puri V, Shabman RS, Pulendran B, Suthar MS.
Zika Virus Antagonizes Type I Interferon Responses during Infection of Human Dendritic Cells.
PLoS Pathog. 2017 Feb; 13(2): e1006164.

Bowen JR, Zimmerman MG, Suthar MS.
Taking the defensive: Immune control of Zika virus infection.
Virus Res. 2017 Sep; (): .

Buechler CR, Bailey AL, Weiler AM, Barry GL, Breitbach ME, Stewart LM, Jasinska AJ, Freimer NB, Apetrei C, Phillips-Conroy JE, Jolly CJ, Rogers J, Friedrich TC, O'Connor DH.
Seroprevalence of Zika Virus in Wild African Green Monkeys and Baboons.
mSphere ; 2(2): .

Carroll T, Lo M, Lanteri M, Dutra J, Zarbock K, Silveira P, Rourke T, Ma ZM, Fritts L, O'Connor S, Busch M, Miller CJ.
Zika virus preferentially replicates in the female reproductive tract after vaginal inoculation of rhesus macaques.
PLoS Pathog. 2017 Jul; 13(7): e1006537.


Reference Materials and Recent News Articles

The CDC Resource Page for Zika Virus

December 13, 2017
Monkeys infected by mosquito bites further Zika virus research

December 11, 2017
New Animal Model for Zika Developed at Texas Biomed Useful for Testing Vaccines and Treatments

December 7, 2017
Experimental Zika Virus Inoculation in a New World Monkey Model Reproduces Key Features of the Human Infection

September 20, 2017
Zika Virus Research Projects

August 1, 2017
Zika infections unlikely to be passed by kissing, casual contact

May 25, 2017
Zika infections could be factor in more pregnancies

May 25, 2017
Zika infections could be factor in more pregnancies

May 12, 2017
Formidable Flying Foe

March 9, 2017
Researchers hone in on when, where Zika virus attacks

March 9, 2017
Zika Attacks Nerves, Muscles, Other Tissues

March 4, 2017
Zika virus ‘spillback’ into primates raises risk of future human outbreaks

October 13, 2016
Zika Vaccine Research Wins WARF Innovation Award

September 27, 2016
Fox 40 Talks Zika With Dr. Koen Van Rompay

September 12, 2016
Louisiana researchers at Tulane, LSU part of efforts to fight Zika

September 12, 2016
Seattle scientists first to show monkey model of Zika damage

August 15, 2016
Studying the Zika virus in rhesus macaques

August 11, 2016
Combating Zika Virus

July 28, 2016
UW-Madison: A world leader in Zika virus research

July 25, 2016
Researchers 'solve' key Zika virus protein structure

July 22, 2016
This year, it's the Zika virus. But what about next year?

July 18, 2016
Zika Data From the Lab, and Right to the Web

July 15, 2016
UCD researcher targets mother-to-child transmission of Zika

July 12, 2016
Zika research in nonhuman primates critical as fears among pregnant women, families grow

July 6, 2016
France's Sanofi to work with US Army on Zika vaccine

June 29, 2016
Can you get Zika twice? Or are you immune?

June 29, 2016
UW-Madison Zika research in monkeys could inform outbreak in people

June 29, 2016
ROUNDTABLE: Preparing for and Protecting the Nation from Zika

June 28, 2016
Monkey study shows Zika infection prolonged in pregnancy

June 28, 2016
New Studies Show Just How Tricky the Zika Virus Is

June 28, 2016
Zika infections last much longer during pregnancy, monkey study shows

June 28, 2016
Zika animal studies yield new disease clues, optimism for vaccine

June 28, 2016
Two new vaccines can protect against Zika after a single shot

June 27, 2016
Inside a monkey lab, research gets fast-tracked in the ‘Zika room’

June 24, 2016
Oregon Zika Researchers Tell Senators They Need More Money

May 25, 2016
Scientists zero in on microcephaly risk for babies born to Zika-infected mothers

March 28, 2016
From mice to monkeys, animal models hold the key to battling Zika

March 19, 2016
Taking the online medicine

March 18, 2016
History Makers: Dr. Koen Van Rompay vs. Zika Virus on History NOW

March 9, 2016
Scientists Report In Real Time On Challenging Zika Research

March 4, 2016
Transmission of Zika Virus Through Sexual Contact with Travelers to Areas of Ongoing Transmission — Continental United States, 2016

March 4, 2016
Zika Virus Infection in Pregnant Women in Rio de Janeiro - Preliminary Report.

March 3, 2016
Missing link: Animal models to study whether Zika causes birth defects

February 26, 2016
Zika virus: The benefits of open research

February 24, 2016
US Scientists Investigate Zika Spread

February 23, 2016
Zika researchers release real-time data on viral infection study in monkeys

February 21, 2016
This Doctor Helped Stop HIV in Pregnant Women. Can He Do It Again With Zika?

February 18, 2016
Monkey study to show whether Zika really causes birth defects

February 18, 2016
Zika Virus in the Americas — Yet Another Arbovirus Threat

February 16, 2016
UC Davis Primate Researchers Key on Zika Virus

February 16, 2016
Understanding Zika Virus with Nonhuman Primates