West Nile Virus May Pose Zika-Like Threat to Fetus

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Zika may not be the only virus that can harm a fetus, a new study in mice suggests.

“We found that West Nile virus and Powassan viruses shared with Zika the ability to infect the placenta and cause fetal death,” said senior researcher Dr. Jonathan Miner, who’s with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Both of those viruses are spread by the bites of insects and are in the same family of viruses as Zika, called flaviviruses.

So far, the researchers have only confirmed this in mice, although they have found these viruses have the ability to replicate in human placental tissue.

Does that mean pregnant women should be concerned every time they get a mosquito or tick bite?

Miner said this study definitely shouldn’t be the cause of “mass hysteria.” Research done in animals doesn’t always turn out the same when done in people.

“The work we do is basic science. We try to understand what may be possible. Our work is not done to make a claim about what is occurring in the human population,” he explained.

He’s an assistant professor in the departments of medicine, pathology and immunology and molecular microbiology.

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SOURCES: Jonathan Miner, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, departments of medicine, pathology and immunology and molecular microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis; Amesh Adalja, M.D., senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Baltimore; Jan. 31, 2018, Science Translational Medicine

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