A recent study in the Emerging Infectious Disease Journal, led by Julu Bhatnagar, has provided some new information regarding replication of Zika virus in infected mothers, and in their infants. Studying 52 cases – 44 women suspected of getting infected with Zika virus during pregnancy, and 8 infants with microcephaly who later died, the group found that Zika virus continues replicating in infant neurons and degenerating glial cells after birth, via in situ hybridization assay. This reaffirms work from previous in vitro and mice studies, which suggested that the virus infects neural progenitor cells. The team also found that Zika virus mRNA levels were over 1,000 times greater in infant brain tissues than in placentas, where they also continue to persist, through use of real time quantitative reverse transcription PCR.
These findings have strengthened the virus’ link to microcephaly, and demonstrated its longevity in both infected mothers and newborn infants. In addition, it supports the notion of the viral infection being extremely detrimental during the first trimester of pregnancy, as 12 of 14 women who had spontaneous abortions, appeared to contract the virus then.
Ahmed Mustafa (’18)