Zika virus can cross the placental barrier, say researchers

Zika virus found in amniotic fluid of women whose foetuses had microcephaly

The Zika virus is able to pass directly into the amniotic fluid of pregnant women, although its causal link with microcephaly is still unproven.

Researchers working in Brazil have published their findings in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, having examined two pregnant women in the country whose foetuses had been diagnosed with microcephaly. Both mothers tested negative for Zika.

Previous studies had found the virus present in mothers' saliva, breast milk and urine but report lead author Ana de Filippis said this is the first time it has been found to cross the placental barrier.

She said: ‘This study cannot determine whether the Zika virus identified in these two cases was the cause of microcephaly in the babies. Until we understand the biological mechanism we cannot be certain that one causes the other, and further research is urgently needed.’

The number of reported cases of newborn babies with microcephaly in Brazil in 2015 has increased 20-fold since 2007.

Babies born with microcephaly are at risk of incomplete brain development.

Read the report here

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