Zika and dengue viruses are flaviviruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes and associated with human disease. Zika infection normally results in a mild illness, but can have devastating effects on the developing fetus during pregnancy. There are four distinct serotypes of dengue virus which are widely disseminated world-wide. It is well known that previous infection with one serotype can greatly enhance the severity of subsequent infection with a different serotype, through a mechanism known as antibody-dependent enhancement. Antibodies against dengue virus cross-react with Zika virus, and it has been suggested that pre-exposure to dengue virus or antibody-based dengue vaccines may affect the severity of Zika virus infection.
It is critically important to have non-human primate models available for the testing of vaccines and therapeutics. Therefore, we are developing non-human primate models of infection of both dengue and Zika viruses in marmosets, in collaboration with Trudeau scientist In-Jeong Kim and in association with scientists at the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas.