Infectious viruses at Maternal-Fetal Interface

Infections like Zika Virus (ZIKV) have highlighted the importance of understanding diseases that can be transmitted vertically from mother to fetus. Viruses make up a substantial fraction of TORCH pathogens [Toxoplasmosis, Other (syphilis, varicellazoster, parvovirus B19, Zika), Rubella, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Herpes infections], which can cause prenatal infections that have an influence on newborn health and neurodevelopment. Pathogens have developed to avoid both innate and adaptive immune responses that limit infection transmission, therefore maternal and fetal immunity are crucial for infection clearance. A full-term human pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks and is separated into three trimesters that correspond to developmental stages. One of the most important factors of congenital illness outcomes is gestational age at the time of infection exposure. Infection with ZIKV during the first trimester of pregnancy, for example, is linked to an increased risk of birth abnormalities such microcephaly and ocular problems in babies. This was eloquently substantiated by researchers in a study that used intravaginal injection of ZIKV in rhesus macaques during developmental time periods corresponding with the first trimester of pregnancy to imitate sexual transmission of ZIKV infection.

Author(s): Antoine Lambert

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