HOUSTON, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- The devastating Zika virus could be used in the fight against brain cancer, according to a recent report.
The report was published on Tuesday by researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch, who have been researching the Zika virus for years and trying to figure out how the virus attacks the brain.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is thought to be the most dangerous form of brain cancer as most patients die within two years after diagnosis. It is almost incurable because tumors always grow back after surgery and chemotherapy.
Scientists found that a live-attenuated Zika vaccine with a weakened version of the virus could kill GBM stem cells without causing disease in humans. That's because GBM stem cells have similar properties to neural stem cells, the target of Zika, explained Dr. Shi Peiyong, leader of the research group.
Research has shown that the Zika vaccine could prolong the lives of mice with human GBM without damaging the brain or altering their behavior.
But that is far from enough. "We still need to further improve the specificity of the cancer-killing ability, while retaining the safety of the vaccine strain," Dr. Shi explained. "For example, we need to make sure that the therapeutic vaccine virus does not infect and kill normal neurons in humans."
Zika has not been considered as a severe problem until a massive outbreak in 2015. Apart from flu-like symptoms, Zika could also cause birth defects including blindness, deformed limbs and microcephaly in children from infected mothers during pregnancy.