Recapitulation of retinal damage in zebrafish larvae infected with Zika virus

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Zebrafish are increasingly being utilized as a model to investigate infectious diseases and to advance the understanding of pathogen–host interactions. Here, we take advantage of the zebrafish to recapitulate congenital ZIKV infection and, for the first time, demonstrate that it can be used to model infection and reinfection and monitor anti-viral and inflammatory immune responses, as well as brain growth and eye abnormalities during embryonic development. By injecting a Brazilian strain of ZIKV into the yolk sac of one-cell stage embryos, we confirmed that, after 72 h, ZIKV successfully infected larvae, and the physical condition of the virus-infected hosts included gross morphological changes in surviving embryos (84%), with a reduction in larval head size and retinal damage characterized by increased thickness of the lens and inner nuclear layer. Changes in locomotor activity and the inability to perceive visual stimuli are a result of changes in retinal morphology caused by ZIKV. Furthermore, we demonstrated the ability of ZIKV to replicate in zebrafish larvae and infect new healthy larvae, impairing their visual and neurological functions. These data reinforce the deleterious activity of ZIKV in the brain and visual structures and establish the zebrafish as a model to study the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathology of the virus.
Maleski ALA, Rosa JGS, Bernardo JTG, Astray RM, Walker CIB, Lopes-Ferreira M, et al. Recapitulation of retinal damage in zebrafish larvae infected with Zika virus. Cells. 2022; Apr 11(9):157. doi:10.3390/cells11091457.
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