Zika virus mutation puts world one step away from serious outbreak, expert warns
The La Jolla Institute for Immunology believe Zika could easily create fresh variants
The Zika virus is just one step away from causing a serious outbreak across the world, experts have warned.
The virus was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organisation back in 2016 after a spread led to thousands of children being born with abnormally small heads.
It is carried by the Aedes mosquito, and originated in the Zika forest of Uganda.
And now, scientists from the US have said the virus could cause serious problems if new variants emerge.
The outbreaks could be problematic even in countries with prior immunity to the virus, the scientists wrote in the journal Cell Reports.
A team from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology found that mosquitoes passing the Zika virus to mice suggest that it could easily create fresh variants.
Sujan Shresta, lead investigator at the institute said: "The Zika variant that we identified had evolved to the point where the cross-protective immunity afforded by prior dengue infection was no longer effective in mice.
"Unfortunately for us, if this variant becomes prevalent, we may have the same issues in real life."
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
The CDC also says it can also be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her or their sex partners.
No vaccine is currently available for Zika.