Sunday, 25 September 2016

Zika Can Cause Birth Defects in Monkeys Too

By Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer | September 12, 2016 05:45pm ET

Some monkeys can contract Zika virus in the womb and show signs of brain damage similar to those seen in human babies, according to a new study.

The findings mark the first time that a monkey has shown signs of "congenital Zika syndrome" — the range of health problems linked with Zika virus infection in the womb. The results suggest that researchers may be able to develop a model of Zika virus infection in monkeys that could help with the development of vaccines or other approaches that would help prevent birth defects caused by Zika, the researchers said.

Researchers have been trying to develop a model of congenital Zika syndrome in nonhuman primates (such as monkeys) because pregnancy in nonhuman primates more closely resembles human pregnancy, compared to pregnancy in other animals such as rodents. However, in a previous study of pregnant monkeys infected with Zika, the virus did not appear to make its way into the fetus's brain tissue, as it does in humans.

In the new study, the researchers used a different species of monkey, called a pigtail macaque, and used a slightly higher dose of Zika virus for infection.

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