New Zika research 'first step' in understanding virus' impact on developing fetuses

Researchers used a stem cell model to determine the Zika virus' effect on developing fetuses and found that the infection does indeed affect cells critical for brain development, either killing them or interrupting normal function.

The findings, published Friday in Cell Stem Cell, detailed exposure of cells that ultimately contribute to the formation of the brain. Researchers found that after infecting the cells, the virus replicated, killing them and derailing the production of new cells.

"This is the first step toward understanding how Zika can affect brain development," Guo-li Ming, MD, PhD, study author and a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, told the Wall Street Journal.

A separate study published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that serious problems persist in the third trimester for women who had Zika at some point during pregnancy. Of 88 women tested for the virus, 72 percent had laboratory-confirmed Zika. Fetal abnormalities were detected in 12 of 42 Zika-positive women.

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