The rapid spread of the mosquito-borne ZIKA Virus (ZIKAV) revealed a clear association of this infection with severe congenital malformations such as microcephaly in newborns indicating that under certain circumstances the virus is more pathogenic in an opportunistic environment.
Well-established immunological assays as well as virus-plaque assays and cell culture and experiments in mice will be performed to investigate whether ZIKV is efficiently lysed by complement or antibody-mediated enhancement of infection can be observed.
At high complement levels referring to 50% serum concentration ZIKV titers were reduced dramatically. We therefore would like to improve our understanding of the roles of the three complement pathways in complement activation and whether ZIKV has established any strategies to escape complement attacks.
We will also examine the considerable serological cross-reactivity between antibodies against Zika virus or other flaviviruses and the interaction of complement with cross-reacting antibodies which may contribute to the opportunistic situation.