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PET Imaging Tracks Zika Virus in Mouse Model

For the first time, researchers use PET imaging to evaluate brain inflammation and disease progression in mice infected with the Zika virus.

By
Mary Bates, Contributor
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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Scientists have used Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging to detect and quantify brain inflammation over time in mice infected with the Zika virus. The study, the first to use PET imaging in this way, was published this month in the journal Molecular Imaging and Biology.

Mothers infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy can give birth to babies with neurological disorders, including microcephaly. To better understand how the virus can cause such damage, researchers turned to PET imaging, a highly sensitive molecular imaging technique capable of visualizing biological processes in live animals.

PET imaging revealed that levels of the Zika virus in the mouse brain increased from day three to day 10 post-infection. Over that time, the mice also showed a two- to sixfold increase in brain inflammation.

PET imaging has several advantages over traditional methods for tracking the progression of infectious diseases in animal models. Most commonly, the organs of interest are removed and analyzed at various endpoints in different animals. Imaging studies allow researchers to follow the course of an infection in the same animal over time.

This study highlights the significant role played by global brain inflammation in the progression of the Zika virus. Additionally, it demonstrates the usefulness of PET imaging in detecting and quantifying this inflammation. Future research could use PET imaging to further characterize how Zika damages the developing brain and evaluate therapeutics to treat Zika infection.