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Emory researchers join NIH study of individuals infected with Zika virus

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Holly Korschun

Zika virus

Illustration by Michael Konomos, Emory University

Researchers at Emory University are part of a national study of people infected with Zika virus to better understand the virus and its host immune response. The study is led by Baylor College of Medicine, with collaborators at Emory University School of Medicine and St. Louis University School of Medicine. It is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

The research is expected to help inform development of future diagnostic tests and vaccines for the Zika virus.

"This study will help us understand important details about how the Zika virus attacks the human body, how the immune system responds, and what the long-term effects may be on individuals," says Mark Mulligan, MD, distinguished professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at Emory University School of Medicine and executive director of the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center. "That is essential information needed to design diagnostic tests and effective vaccines."

Baylor and Emory will enroll about 200 volunteers total for the study, and all three sites will conduct laboratory research.

Study volunteers confirmed to be infected with Zika virus will provide blood and other samples for testing the body’s immune response to Zika virus infection. U.S. residents who want to volunteer, regardless of where they were infected, may be referred by their physicians or by state or local health departments.

Laboratory components of the study have three objectives:

  • Characterize the antibody response to the virus by measuring antibodies in the serum (Emory)
  • Understand the cell-mediated immune response to the virus (Emory and St. Louis)
  • Determine where the virus is in the body and how long it stays in bodily fluids through quantitative PCR testing (Baylor)

"Very little is currently known about how the body fights Zika virus, so this work will teach us a lot," says co-investigator Nadine Rouphael, MD, Emory associate professor of medicine. 

The study is open to people 15 years of age and older. Study participants will be followed for one year.

For more information about the study at Emory, please call 404-712-1371.

This study is supported by NIH contract # HHSN272201300018I at Emory University.

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