Omega-3 reduces neuron death by Zika virus
Source: Robson Moura / TV Brasil
Clinical tests carried out at the Laboratory of Immunology and Inflammation (Limi) of the University of Brasília (UnB) indicate that omega-3 - a fatty acid normally found in fish that reduces bad cholesterol in the body - fights the inflammation of neurons caused by the Zika virus . The substance also helps in reducing viral load in the cells of the human nervous system.
The Zika virus leads to neurological complications such as encephalitis, Guillain Barré syndrome and microcephaly. With the infection of the Zika virus, the mitochondria of nerve cells, which capture energy and act as a kind of “cell lung”, are attacked and undergo oxidative stress. The outcome is the death of neurons.
"When Zika infects a neuron, it causes that neuron to produce a series of inflammatory, cytotoxic and free radical molecules that will cause damage to DNA", describes the coordinator of Limi / UnB and professor of Cell Biology, Kelly Magalhães.
"The pre-treatment of omega-3 causes the cell to produce other molecules that have an antagonistic activity to what Zika does", explains the professor who supervised the researcher Heloísa Braz-de-Melo, master's student, responsible for the study recently published in an international scientific journal. With omega 3, neurons produce neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory molecules.
The investigation of the effects of omega-3 on the prevention and treatment of the effects of the Zika virus was made from a sample of the virus isolated from an infected patient in Pernambuco in 2015, when there was an outbreak of the disease in some Brazilian states. Researchers at the University of Brasilia also carried out tests with mice, the results are expected to be released later this semester. Limi / UnB participates in an international network with laboratories in Canada, Scotland and the United States to research the Zika virus.
In addition to identifying new benefits of omega-3 against Zika, the laboratory also identified that the virus can lead to male infertility. “We are demonstrating that Zika virus infection also causes male infertility. When the mouse is infected, the virus lodges in the testis, causing death of sperm or morphological abnormalities of movement ”.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, sexual intercourse, and from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy. The most common symptoms are redness in the body and itching after a few days. Low fever, not always noticed, conjunctivitis without secretion, headache, muscle pain and even joint pain can occur.
Control measures are similar to dengue and chikungunya. According to the Ministry of Health, “the best form of prevention, and the most effective, is to prevent the proliferation of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, eliminating stored water that can become a possible breeding ground, such as in plant pots, water lobsters, tires, plastic bottles, unused and maintained swimming pools, and even small containers, such as bottle caps and plant plates ”.
Omega-3 is found in the oil of fish from cold and deep waters (salmon, tuna, cod, dogfish) and vegetable oils and flaxseed. The nutrient is sold in capsules by pharmacies and food supplement stores. The purchase does not require a prescription; specialized guidance, however, is recommended by researchers. The price of the product varies depending on the concentration of the substance.