(CN) - The epidemic spread of Zika through Latin America and the Caribbean led to fear and thousands of babies developing congenital disorders. However, it could also help protect the regions from future transmissions.
Findings published Thursday in the journal Nature Medicine suggest that people infected with Zika may not be vulnerable to contracting the virus again, which is good news for areas that have already experienced active local transmission.
"The research shows that infection provides excellent protection against reinfection," said study co-author Stephen Higgs "This means people infected during this current epidemic will likely not be susceptible again. When a large proportion of the population is protected - known as herd immunity - the risk of future epidemics may be low."
Higgs is the director of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University, where the scientists produced the virus. They also provided it to collaborators to support studies at several other laboratories.
The team's research detected Zika RNA in blood plasma as soon as one day after infection. The virus was also found to remain in some tissues for a long time, but only briefly in others. The scientists discovered Zika RNA in saliva, urine, semen, cerebrospinal fluid, and it was briefly detected in vaginal secretions.
Zika RNA was not found in blood plasma or urine after 10 days, but it was detectable in seminal fluids and saliva until at least 21 days after the virus was no longer present in the blood. RNA of the virus was also detected in tissues during early and late stage of infection, including the brain and male and female reproductive tissues.
The team said their findings can also help produce better models for improving Zika research and testing vaccine candidates.
Higgs also noted that additional research is needed to understand how the virus invades the nervous system.
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