November 15, 2019
Using a relevant animal model (pigs), University of Saskatchewan researchers have shown that mild Zika virus infection in fetuses can cause abnormal brain development in apparently healthy young animals.
The study, published Nov. 14 in PLOS Pathogens, provides new insights into the potential outcomes of Zika virus infection and could point to new prevention and treatment strategies to alleviate the long-term effects of Zika virus infection.
Spread by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, Zika infection of pregnant mothers can lead to death and decreased brain size (microcephaly) in fetuses, leading to life-long developmental and cognitive impairment.
However, there is growing concern that sub-clinical infections (showing no symptoms) in pregnant mothers can result in brain disorders and delayed neurodevelopmental abnormalities in offspring after birth.
Using the pig as a model, new research at USask’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) has provided direct evidence to support this concern.