Zika virus infection in pregnant women has been linked to the development of microcephaly and other brain defects in infants. Although the virus is known to be transmitted from mother to fetus, it is not clear how it crosses the maternal-fetal barrier. In this issue of JCI Insight, Erol Fikrig and colleagues at Yale University examined Zika virus infection of different cell types of the placenta, including cytotrophoblasts, placental macrophages, and fibroblasts. Cells were isolated from placental tissue of term pregnancies and infected with Zika virus in culture. The majority of fibroblasts and 10-15% of placental macrophages were infected and subsequently shed virus. Further, the researchers found that placental macrophages in intact placental tissue could also be infected with Zika virus in culture, though they did not observe infection of fibroblasts in the context of tissue. These results suggest that placental macrophages could be susceptible to Zika infection and indicate that further studies are warranted to determine the contribution of placental macrophages in maternal-fetal Zika transmission.
Zika virus productively infects primary human placenta-specific macrophages
Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Yale University School of Medicine
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