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There Might Be a Way to Protect Fetuses From the Zika Virus

ByAllison EckNOVA NextNOVA Next

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Right now, a pregnant woman who catches Zika doesn’t have many options.

But in not too long, she might be able to undergo a treatment that would protect her fetus from the deleterious effects of Zika.

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The new therapy , which appears to lower the amount of Zika virus that circulates in a mother mouse’s blood and crosses the placenta, was reported and discussed in the journal Nature. The antibody was made using blood cells from people who have recently warded off the virus.

A new antibody treatment has been shown to be effective in mice.

BBC News reports:

At birth, there was less damage to the placenta and these baby mice were much bigger than others whose mothers had not received the antibody treatment.

The researchers stress that years of testing will be needed to see if it could be a safe and effective treatment for pregnant women.

In the meantime, other scientists are focusing on making a vaccine that could protect people from catching Zika in the first place.

In September, The Lancet published a study that identified a strong association between microcephaly—a birth defect in which the baby’s head size is below average—and laboratory confirmation of Zika virus infection in utero. Experts are also saying that exposure to Zika while in the womb may lead to a broad range of brain deficiencies not limited to microcephaly, and that adults with Zika may also be susceptible to brain damage.

As Zika spreads, the need for an in utero treatment will become ever more pressing, whether in the form of a vaccine or something else entirely. The evidence supporting Zika’s spread by non-sexual contact is not yet definitive—but were it to be confirmed, Zika-infect pregnant women would require escalated support.