In a recent study published on Friday, the researchers found out how the mosquito-borne Zika virus reaches the fetus if a pregnant woman gets infected with the virus.
The researchers until now did not know the particular cells that played a part in giving access to fetal blood cells in a pregnant women. However, now, with the findings of the study, the researchers can now possibly come up with preventive measure and antiviral treatments that could save the fetus from getting infected too.
According to the study, the cells involved in the feral infections are knows as the Hofbauer cells that have direct access to the developing fetus. The researchers said that the virus could infect the cells and penetrate the immune system of the fetus without killing these cells.
Commenting on the findings, senior author of these study and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine, Mehul Suthar said, “One group has recently discovered viral antigen in Hofbauer cells collected from placental tissue of a fetus that unfortunately died as a result of Zika virus infection.”
In order to reach the findings, the researchers from Emory University evaluated small samples of donated human placenta in order to determine the type of cells that could be vulnerable to the Zika virus with the help of a particular strain of the virus which is currently affecting a lot of babies in Puerto Rico.
Explaining the findings further, co-author and a pediatric infectious disease specialist, Rana Chakraborty said, “Our study indicates that this cell type may be a target for Zika virus in the placenta and replication in these cells may allow the virus to cross the placental barrier and enter the fetal circulation.”
The Zika virus has been gradually spreading from the South America and over the last few weeks many cases of the infection have been reported in the United States.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.