Although the Zika virus (ZIKV) was first isolated in 1947, it was not until last year that it experienced a large rise in the number of pregnancy-associated microcephalies. Microcephaly is a medical condition affecting the brain, where the infant does not develop a normal sized head. This leads to a number of complications and difficulties such as impaired intellectual abilities, strokes, as well as other neurological defects.
The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted flavivirus, currently affecting Micronesia, French Polynesia, and South and Central America. Research has shown that ZIKV infection in pregnant women causes congenital abnormalities and fetal deaths. It has also been found that the ZIKV infects pregnant dams as well as the placenta, leading to damage in the placental barrier which causes infection of the fetus which is still developing. Placental insufficiency and intrauterine growth restrictions also occur, with fetal demise occurring in the more severe cases.
Studies performed on mice by Miner et al. used two ultero models of ZIKV infection during pregnancy using Ifnar1−/− females crossed to WT males as well as pregnant WT females treated with an anti-ifnar-blocking antibody. Results showed that when dams were treated with an anti-ifnar antibody, infection of the developing fetus occurred but was less severe and did not cause fetal death. By using these mice models, the transmission of the disease can be easier understood and lead to a faster development of a cure.
Editor: Ruby Halfacre