A virus deemed a global health emergency just last year might be able to treat brain cancer.
A new study released Tuesday details what happened when scientists used the Zika virus to attack cancerous brain cells in mice. The virus targeted cancerous cells while largely ignoring healthy brain cells.
Researchers from the study observed two groups of mice who had glioblastomas, which are highly malignant and aggressive brain tumors. They found the mice that received the Zika virus lived longer and had smaller tumors after just one week.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to microcephaly, a condition associated with brain underdevelopment, in babies born to infected women. Outbreaks were reported in Brazil in 2015 when thousands of babies were born with abnormally small heads and other brain defects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 5,000 Zika cases in the U.S. between 2015 and August 2017. It warned pregnant women against traveling to risky areas back in 2016.
It will take a while for human trials to begin, but future subjects would have to introduce a virus that caused international devastation into their bodies — on purpose. Researchers have tested the virus in human cell samples but say it may operate differently in a living person.