Zika virus in Cambodia has prompted researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to conduct a study which revealed that Zika virus is able to induce miscarriage in infected mothers and cause brain damage in infected babies. They found that the virus penetrates the placenta to infect the fetus in the womb. The researchers carried out their experiments in lab mice and equate the results to what could happen to humans.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature Communications, and it is titled "Intrauterine Zika virus infection of pregnancy immunocompetent mice models transplacental transmission and adverse perinatal outcomes." They hope they can use the results of their studies to develop drugs that can be used to treat Zika virus. The disease was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization in 2016.
Zika virus enters through the placenta to infect unborn babies
Zika virus in Cambodia is currently causing a lot of maternity damage in South America. And so using pregnant lab mice with complete immune systems, the researchers injected Zika virus into their reproductive tract with a hope to infect the fetus. Then they monitored how the virus infected the fetus by penetrating the placenta and almost destroying the placenta. The placenta naturally keeps toxins, bacteria and viruses from reaching the fetus through cellular layers.
In a report written by Medical Express, the researchers discovered that Zika virus is able to destroy the security of the cellular layers of the placenta and disorganize antiviral proteins to infect fetuses. The scientists injected the mice with Zika in early pregnancy, a period that could be regarded as first trimester in humans. They added that they are satisfied with the result of their study even though more research is still needed to understand Zika virus and develop appropriate treatment drugs.
Different strains of Zika virus used for the study
"We need to find a way to stop transmission of Zika through the placenta into the fetus, because that is where the damage is being done," said Sabra L. Klein, an immunologist and microbiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who took part in the study. Co-study author Irina Burd, a fetal and maternal medicine physician at Johns Hopkins Medicine thinks the study will equip scientists to arrest the progression of Zika infection and save more children. They hope that with future studies, they will be able to also determine if siblings of infected Zika patients inherit some of its dire effects.
Zika virus in Cambodia may soon become a thing of the past but top scientists are working round the clock to make this dream a reality for all. To be sure of the results of their study, the researchers injected the pregnant lab mice with various strains of Zika virus. They used older strains from an outbreak that occurred in Nigeria in 1968 and a Zika virus Cambodia of 2010. They also applied newer strains from outbreaks that occurred in Brazil and Puerto Rico.