Birth defects associated with Zika virus infection may depend on mother’s immune response

Infection by the Zika virus will cause some pregnant women — but not others — to give birth to babies with a serious birth defect called microcephaly. Now, scientists from the Rockefeller University may have figured out why only some of the babies will be born with microcephaly. The research team found that the mothers of microcephalic babies had different antibodies compared to the mothers with healthy babies. Although these antibodies were effective at combatting Zika, they also increased the virus’s ability to harm the fetus. Although more research is needed, this research does provide useful insight into the mechanism by which Zika causes microcephaly.

Key Takeaways:

  • Microcephaly refers to the development in an infant of an abnormally small head.
  • The birth defect, microcephaly, can stem from a pregnant mother being infected with the Zika virus.
  • New research suggests that the specific antibodies a pregnant woman creates in response to the virus can tip the scales as to whether her child is a defect-sufferer or born normal.

“New research led by scientists at The Rockefeller University in New York may help explain why Zika virus infection causes birth defects in some children but not others.”

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