Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) have established the first models of Zika virus transmission from a pregnant mouse to her fetus. The infected mice, described May 11 in Cell, demonstrate Zika virus invasion and damage to the placenta, and then infection of the mouse fetus, leading to many of the same conditions observed in human infants. The new mouse models can also be used as a tool to develop treatments or vaccines.
“There have been questions regarding whether in utero transmission of Zika virus actually causes disease in the fetus. While the evidence has been mounting, our data confirms that Zika virus can cause congenital problems, including fetal death,” says Michael Diamond, a viral immunologist at WashU.