The dietary trace mineral selenium may reduce severe birth defects caused by Zika, a recent University of North Carolina study revealed.

The study, which was released in July but received scant media attention, says that Zika mimics a genetic disease known as PCCA by lowering selenium proteins known as selenoproteins.

“This research strongly suggests that selenium, a dietary trace mineral with a proven ability to improve clinical outcomes in HIV/AIDS and several other viral diseases, could also be useful in reducing the risk of neurological disorders and fetal abnormalities caused by Zika virus, including microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by small head size,” cell biologists Ethan Will Taylor and Jan A. Ruzicka stated. “…Low dietary selenium status could be a risk factor for Zika-related neurological and fetal abnormalities [experienced by pregnant women].”

“…This research suggests that Zika virus may use a known genetic mechanism called antisense to block production of some of the same human selenoproteins that are lost due to the genetic defect of PCCA.”

The authors added that SePP, an essential selenium carrier protein, helps the body’s detoxification of mercury which is also known to cause birth defects, especially in Zika-striken Brazil where high levels of mercury are found in food and water.

But Zika has already spread outside Brazil; Florida officials announced a new Zika case near Tampa Bay on Tuesday, which is nearly 300 miles from where the first domestic case was reported near Miami.

Mosquitos are spreading the virus across Florida.

“Florida Governor Rick Scott said the state department of health has begun door-to-door outreach in Pinellas County, testing individuals to find other cases,” Reuters reported. “Pinellas County is home to St. Petersburg, Clearwater and a number of Gulf Coast beaches that are popular tourist destinations.”

Health officials have also warned that Zika could spread across the Gulf of Mexico.

“The possibility of transmission in Gulf States such as Louisiana and Texas will likely fuel concerns that the virus… could spread across the continental United States, even though officials have played down such an outcome,” Reuters revealed.

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