Zika ther­apy ‘works in the womb’

Malta Independent - - HEALTH -

Sci­en­tists say they may have found a way to pro­tect ba­bies in the womb from the harm­ful ef­fects of Zika.

So far the US team has only had suc­cess in mice with its an­ti­body treat­ment, but it says it might even­tu­ally lead to a ther­apy for women who catch Zika in preg­nancy.

The Zika virus can se­verely dam­age a new­born’s brain.

The an­ti­body ther­apy is made us­ing blood cells from peo­ple who have re­cently had and fought off Zika.

In mice, the treat­ment sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the amount of Zika virus that cir­cu­lated in the mother’s blood and crossed the pla­centa into the baby, Na­ture jour­nal­re­ports.

At birth, there was less dam­age to the pla­centa and these baby mice were much big­ger than oth­ers whose mothers had not re­ceived the an­ti­body treat­ment.

The re­searchers stress that years of test­ing will be needed to see if it could be a safe and ef­fec­tive treat­ment for preg­nant women.

In the mean­time, other sci­en­tists are fo­cus­ing on mak­ing a vac­cine that could pro­tect peo­ple from catch­ing Zika in the first place.

Zika is spread to peo­ple by mos­quito bites. Out­breaks of the dis­ease have been seen in the Amer­i­cas and, more re­cently, in south-east Asia.

Sin­ga­pore has said its out­break was caused by a lo­cal strain, not the one which caused the huge out­break in South Amer­ica.

Prof Laura Ro­drigues, from the London School of Hy­giene and Trop­i­cal Medicine, said: “At the mo­ment, if a preg­nant wo­man is di­ag­nosed with Zika she only re­ally has one op­tion - whether or not to have a ter­mi­na­tion.

“Even if we do one day have a vac­cine that can pro­tect peo­ple from catch­ing Zika, there will still be some who will get in­fected.

“For these peo­ple, a treat­ment like this an­ti­body one would be help­ful.”

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