Immunizing pregnant female mice with a Zika vaccine can protect their fetus from infection and birth defects, according to new research from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
The UTMB study is the first to demonstrate that potential vaccines could protect a fetus from the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
“In the study, we were the first to show that two different potential vaccines given to the mother prevent the Zika virus from infecting the fetus during pregnancy in a mouse model,” said UTMB’s Pei-Yong Shi, senior author.
"We believe that evaluating the vaccines’ ability to prevent birth defects in humans is warranted,” Shi said.
While a Zika infection typically results in mild or symptom-free infections in healthy adults and children, the risk of microcephaly and other diseases in a developing fetus is an alarming consequence that has created a worldwide health threat. Pregnant women who are infected with the Zika virus but never display any disease symptoms may still give birth to a baby with microcephaly.
Female mice were vaccinated against Zika with one of the two developing vaccines prior to becoming pregnant and then exposed to the virus during their pregnancies. Shi and colleagues found the vaccinated pregnant mice showed little or no evidence of the virus in the mothers’ body including the placenta or in the fetuses’ bodies.