Transplacental transmission of the Zika virus gets untangled

The Zika virus disease is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that was first introduced in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys. Later, it was identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. As of now, the outbreaks of the virus occurred in 86 countries, while the most affected is Brazil. It generally causes a mild infection in most people but gives a red flag for pregnant women as it causes microcephaly in the babies.

Scientists were pondering about the virus of how it transmits transplacentally. During the outbreak of the Zika virus in 2015-2016 in Brazil, they conducted a study to know more about the pathogenesis and transmission of the virus. The team led by Dr. Kissila Rabelo, from the Rio de Janeiro State University, collected placenta samples of pregnant women during the peak period of the outbreak. They got samples from 5 women who were not infected with the virus, and also from 10 women who were infected by the virus. The study concluded that 50 percent of the pregnant women who conquered the virus delivered baby with microcephaly, and the rest of the women gave birth without such outcomes.

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The placenta acts as a barrier between the mother and newborn and prevents the entry of blood-borne pathogens like bacteria, viruses, etc. However, the research showed that the Zika virus can be persistent and can even replicate in the placenta, exposing the virus to the developing fetus. It may regulate some factors related to brain development resulting in abnormal head, congenital malformation.

Replication of the virus in the placenta creates a robust inflammation that may last for months. The inflammation is due to the activation of macrophages, CD8+ T lymphocyte, cytokines, thereby causing cytotoxicity. Also, these cytokines are responsible for increased vascular permeability that could affect the forming baby. The study was published in the journal Frontier in Immunology. This discovery will help to identify the plasma biomarkers and also aids in the preparation of drugs and vaccines to tackle any future Zika virus outbreak.

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Source: Medical Xpress

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