How worried should you be about Zika virus?

U-M virologist offers perspective on brain-affecting infection

Zika virus

Seen through a microscope, Zika virus particles (like the one at the tip of the arrow) don’t look too dangerous. But they’re suspected of causing lasting harm in a growing number of infants and others. Image courtesy of CDC

It seemed to burst onto the scene overnight, with tragic pictures of babies born with small heads and damaged brains. Now, the world’s health authorities have shifted into high gear to deal with Zika virus.

How does this virus compare to others, and what will it take to detect or defeat it? U-M virologist Katherine Spindler, Ph.D., offers some key information and a dose of perspective. She’s a member of a national team that hosts a weekly podcast on viruses, aimed at the general public, called This Week in Virology.

Dr. Spindler and her laboratory team in the U-M Medical School study how viruses cross a protective barrier to the brain and what viruses do once they’re there. They also look at how some viruses can cause mild illness in most people – but in immunocompromised individuals, cause serious damage. Working with scientists in Brazil, Spindler’s lab team studies other viruses that can cause brain problems.

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Coolest Science Stories of 2015

From bananas to brains, nanotechnology to stem cells, U-M medical researchers made incredible discoveries

Coolest Stories 2Lots of amazing medical care, and testing of new treatments and diagnostic tools, happens every day at our hospitals and clinics.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, our medical scientists quietly work on the research that could make life better for patients and their care teams tomorrow. In fact, some of those U-M scientists are also U-M doctors who treat patients — so they especially know what needs to improve.

This kind of “basic science”, as it’s called, has to happen in order for health care to move forward.

As 2015 ends, here’s a roundup of some of the most amazing discoveries and developments that came out of our Medical School’s labs this past year.

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