“Here we demonstrate that the ZIKVBR infects fetuses, causing intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR), including signs of microcephaly in mice.”
The abstract is below.
Zika virus (ZIKV) is an arbovirus belonging to the genus Flavivirus (Family Flaviviridae) and was first described in 1947 in Uganda following blood analyses of sentinel Rhesus monkeys. Until the 20th century, the African and Asian lineages of the virus did not cause meaningful infections in humans. However, in 2007, vectored by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, ZIKV caused the first noteworthy epidemic on the island of Yap in Micronesia2. Patients experienced fever, skin rash, arthralgia and conjunctivitis. From 2013 to 2015, the Asian lineage of the virus caused further massive outbreaks in New Caledonia and French Polynesia. In 2013, ZIKV reached Brazil, later spreading to other countries in South and Central America. In Brazil, the virus has been linked to congenital malformations, including microcephaly and other severe neurological diseases, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. Despite clinical evidence, direct experimental proof showing that the Brazilian ZIKV (ZIKVBR) strain causes birth defects remains missing. Here we demonstrate that the ZIKVBR infects fetuses, causing intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR), including signs of microcephaly in mice. Moreover, the virus infects human cortical progenitor cells, leading to an increase in cell death. Finally, we observed that the infection of human brain organoids resulted in a reduction of proliferative zones and disrupted cortical layers. These results indicate that ZIKVBR crosses the placenta and causes microcephaly by targeting cortical progenitor cells, inducing cell death by apoptosis and autophagy, impairing neurodevelopment. Our data reinforce the growing body of evidence linking the ZIKVBR outbreak to the alarming number of cases of congenital brain malformations. Our model can be used to determine the efficiency of therapeutic approaches to counteracting the harmful impact of ZIKVBR in human neurodevelopment.