Zika virus is undoubtedly the most dangerous mosquito-borne virus that has the potential to paralyse a person and cause birth defects in children born to infected mothers. Over 80 countries of the world are affected by this virus. The problematic part is that it doesn’t show distinctive symptoms for timely identification and sadly, there is no treatment available for this disease yet. Lately, a new development has surfaced according to which this virus can get transmitted to the placenta and infect the child in the womb. All the pregnant mothers and to-be fathers must read this research on zika virus and pregnancy.
Can Zika be passed from mother to child?
Published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, a study has found that even months after infection in the mother, some traces of the virus may be present in the womb. A replicating infection in the placenta that may reach the foetus and affect the baby and his brain development. While there are so many viruses attacking human health(the latest being coronavirus), it would be right to say that we are living with a constant threat upon us. There is no vaccine or treatment of zika virus yet which makes it scarier. This research can help in inhibiting the transmission of zika virus in babies and preventing birth defects.
Lead researcher Dr. Kissila Rabelo, of Rio de Janeiro State University in Brazil said: "We observed Zika spread rapidly in Brazil and saw with our own eyes the situation of pregnant women. It was really impactful and made us question how the scientific community could know so little about this disease. So as a research group that already works with arboviruses, we dedicated ourselves to understanding the pathogenesis of this disease."
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What did the researchers find?
This research was conducted in Brazil where zika virus is highly prevalent. The research team took placenta samples of pregnant women during the year 2015-2016 when zika virus outbreak was at its peak. They took samples of both infected and non-infected women to establish whether it affects the baby or not. Five women out of the infected ones gave birth to babies with microcephaly (a defect that causes the head of the baby to be smaller than normal).
One of the major findings was that zika virus can bypass the placenta to affect the foetus. The placenta is not just a covering but a protective layer that shields the baby. Zika virus bypassing the placenta and causing problems in the child is highly concerning. It is similar to the case of COVID-19 transmission from mother to the baby. The researchers found that this could be possible only due to an exacerbated response by some immune cells like cytokines, macrophages and lymphocytes that cause cytotoxicity. This further causes pathological changes in the tissue that directly impacts the development of the foetus.
"These findings will be very useful for scientists to establish an infection profile and further understand the immune response caused by Zika virus. This could generate countless developments, form a basis for the detection of plasma biomarkers to the development of drugs and vaccines. All of which are vital for controlling future Zika outbreaks, which according to epidemiologists are likely to happen again," Dr. Rabbelo added.
In a nutshell, pregnant women should be alert about all the virus outbreaks happening around them especially if they live in a vulnerable area. To protect the baby against these viruses, you need to protect yourself first.
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