Good news for would-be-mothers! Immunising women with a Zika vaccine during pregnancy can protect the transmission of virus from mother to her baby in utero. Researchers from the University of Texas’s medical branch at Galveston in the US found that the Zika vaccine can protect unborn child against infection and birth defects. Zika virus causes a mild, flu-like illness in most people, but to pregnant women the dangers are potentially much worse. The virus can reduce fetal growth, cause microcephaly, an abnormally small head associated with brain damage, and even trigger a miscarriage. According to new research, immunising female mice with a Zika vaccine can protect their developing fetus from infection and birth defects during pregnancy. Senior study author Pei-Yong Shi said that his team was the first to show that two different potential vaccines given to a mother and prevent the Zika virus from infecting the fetus during pregnancy in a mouse model. Based on these data, we believe that evaluating the vaccines’ ability to prevent birth defects in humans are warranted, Shi added. 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.
The study group found that the vaccinated pregnant mice showed little or no evidence of the virus in the mothers’ body including the placenta or in the fetuses’ bodies. “Having a Zika vaccine that can protect pregnant women and their unborn babies would improve public health efforts to avoid birth defects and other effects of the disease in regions where Zika is circulating,” Shi said. The research appears in the journal of Cell.