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Zika virus infects the human retina

Two Inserm teams involving Unit 1058, “Pathogenesis and Control of Chronic Infections” (Inserm/University of Montpellier/French Blood Transfusion Service) and Unit 1051, “Montpellier Institute of Neurosciences,” have just shown that Zika virus can infect the pigment epithelium of the human retina, and may thus be able to cause retinal damage.

This study is published in Journal of Virology.

Infection by Zika virus may result in several types of symptoms, particularly neurological damage of the Guillain-Barre type in adults and microcephalies in newborn children and infants. However, several studies suggest that the eye might be a preferred target of the virus, and ocular damage has been recently described in infected people.

Two Inserm teams have just demonstrated for the first time that the pigment epithelium of the human retina is permissive to infection by Zika virus. Using a human retinal pigment epithelium model derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, these teams were able to show that the virus replicates very efficiently in this type of cell. Moreover, the infection disrupts the integrity of the epithelium, and can thus have serious consequences for infected individuals, in terms of both visual function and viral transmission.

This study therefore emphasises the paramount importance of better characterising the ocular damage observed in certain individuals who have been infected by Zika virus

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Researcher Contact

Sara Salinas
Chercheuse Inserm

Unité 1058 Pathogenèse et contrôle des infections chroniques (Inserm/Université de Montpellier/EFS)
Tel: 04 34 35 91 07


ZIKA virus efficiently replicates in human retinal pigment epithelium and disturbs its permeability

Sara  Salinas1¶,  Nejla  Erkilic2,3,  Krishna  Damodar2,3,  Jean-Pierre  Molès1,  Chantal Fournier-Wirth1,4,  Philippe  Van  de  Perre1,5,  Vasiliki  Kalatzis2,3¶$ and  Yannick Simonin1,3$

1UMR  1058.  INSERM/  Université  de  Montpellier/  Etablissement  Français  du  Sang Pathogenèse et Contrôle des Infections Chroniques, Inserm, Montpellier, France

2 Inserm U1051, Institut des Neurosciences de Montpellier, Montpellier, France

3 Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, France

4 Établissement Français du Sang, Montpellier, France

5 Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montpellier, Montpellier, France

Journal of Virology