Malaysia: People from Sabah have natural antibodies against Zika -- professor

Channel NewsAsia 21 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE: People from Sabah are less likely to contract the Zika virus because they could have inborn antibodies, according to a medicine and health sciences professor from the University Malaysia Sabah.

Speaking at a public health forum on Zika at Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday (Sep 20), Professor Kamruddin Ahmed said the virus had been found in apes and humans in Sabah as early as the 1960s and hence, people who live in the area might have developed natural antibodies today, reported Malaysian daily The Star.

“From what scientists have researched and confirmed, we know that the orang utan are among apes or monkeys that carry the virus,” said the molecular epidemiologist.

However, due to deforestation and other factors forcing more animal-human contact, the Zika virus has been spread to humans, Prof Kamruddin added.

“It means that most of us probably have a natural antibody against the virus,” he said.

“Therefore, it may mean that this Zika virus may not affect us the same way it is affecting other people in other parts of the world, especially Brazil where many babies born of Zika-infected mothers have microcephaly (small head) syndrome,” Prof Kamruddin added, explaining that the Zika virus strains in Malaysia and South America were different.

However, he still advised people in Sabah to be cautious and take measures to ensure they do not contract the virus.

“There are still a lot of questions we cannot answer so it is best that we all take precautionary measures,” he said.

- CNA/am