Research Suggests Zika Can Move from Mom to Fetus
Discovery adds to signs it might have caused thousands of Brazilian babies to be born with birth defect
By Dennis Thompson
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 17, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that suggests the Zika virus can move from a pregnant woman to her unborn child, Brazilian researchers report the virus was present in the amniotic fluid of two women whose infants were diagnosed with the birth defect microcephaly.
The discovery adds to growing evidence that the Zika virus might be behind a recent surge in the number of babies born in Brazil with microcephaly, which leads to abnormally small heads and possible brain damage.
"Previous studies have identified Zika virus in the saliva, breast milk and urine of mothers and their newborn babies, after having given birth," said study author Dr. Ana de Filippis, from the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro. "This study reports details of the Zika virus being identified directly in the amniotic fluid of a woman during her pregnancy, suggesting that the virus could cross the placental barrier and potentially infect the fetus."
Reporting in the Feb. 17 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the researchers explained that the amniotic fluid surrounds and protects the fetus while developing in the mother's uterus. The placental barrier regulates which substances cross from mother to child.
But de Filippis stressed that the latest discovery does not prove that the Zika virus caused microcephaly in the two Brazilian infants in the study.
"Until we understand the biological mechanism linking Zika virus to microcephaly, we cannot be certain that one causes the other, and further research is urgently needed," de Filippis said in a journal news release.
It's believed there have been more than 4,100 suspected or confirmed cases of microcephaly in Brazil, the epicenter of the outbreak.
In other developments, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday moved to protect the U.S. blood supply by saying that people who've traveled to places where the Zika virus is prevalent, or who have symptoms that suggest infection, should wait a month before donating blood.
Four weeks is enough time for the virus to pass through a person's system, the agency said.