As an expert in advanced imaging and image analysis, Visikol commonly partners with researchers to assist them with their most challenging research questions. Recently, Visikol published a paper in Neglected Tropic Diseases titled Detection of Zika virus in mouse mammary gland and breast milk with researchers from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology.
The question that this work set out to address was whether the Zika virus could be transmitted from nursing mothers to their children via breast milk. Only four years have passed since the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, and there is much that remains unknown about how the Zika virus spreads. To date, some reports have detected Zika virus RNA in the breast milk of infected mothers, but the presence of a virus’ RNA does not mean that intact virus is present.
Milk also contains many natural defense components against infection, so even intact virus carried in breast milk may not be infectious to a child. In this work a mouse was used that is genetically engineered to be highly susceptible to Zika infection. This type of mouse was then evaluated to test if the intact virus could be detected in breast milk and if the infection could be passed from the mother to pups.
Through this work, low levels of intact Zika virus were found in mouse breast milk and none of the nursing pups were found to be infected. The model of Zika virus breast milk infection developed in this study establishes a system by which we may learn whether Zika RNA in human breast milk is truly infectious to children, and how Zika virus may enter the milk. In this work, the Visikol HISTO approach was used to evaluate how Zika spread through mammary tissue and to evaluate the heterogeneity of the virus within tissue. This work clearly demonstrates the utility of Visikol’s 3D tissue imaging services and is one of the first papers to leverage 3D tissue imaging for use with tracking infectious disease.