The most devastating consequence of Zika virus infection is the development of microcephaly, or an abnormally small head, in babies who were infected in utero. Now, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee have identified a human antibody that prevents, in pregnant mice, the fetus from becoming infected with Zika and damage of the placenta. The antibody also protects adult mice from Zika disease. "This is the first antiviral that has been shown to work in pregnancy to protect developing fetuses from Zika virus," said Michael Diamond, M.D., Ph.D., the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine and the study's co-senior author. "This is proof of principle that Zika virus during pregnancy is treatable, and we already have a human antibody that treats it, at least in mice." The study was published online on November 7, 2016 in Nature. The article is titled “Neutralizing Human Antibodies Prevent Zika Virus Replication and Fetal Disease In Mice.” Dr. Diamond, co-senior author James Crowe Jr., M.D., of Vanderbilt, and colleagues screened 29 anti-Zika antibodies from people who had recovered from Zika infection. They found one, called ZIKV-117, that efficiently neutralized in the lab five Zika strains - representing the worldwide diversity of the virus. To test whether the antibody also protects living animals, the researchers gave the antibody to pregnant mice either one day before or one day after they were infected with the virus. In both cases, antibody treatment markedly reduced the levels of virus in pregnant females and their fetuses, as well as in the placentas, compared with pregnant mice that did not get the antibody.
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