Fetus may be protected from Zika by injecting antibodies during pregnancy


According to a recent study, a new blend of antibodies is in place, which provides temporary yet effective treatment for protection against Zika virus. According to senior researcher, David Watkins, professor of pathology at University of Miami’s Miller school of Medicine, a combination of three antibodies helped in completely preventing infection of Zika in a group of four lab monkeys.

Watkins further stated that regularly injecting pregnant women with these antibodies could help prevent the infection from Zika virus in women residing in or travelling to regions, where there is a widespread of Zika.

Zika can lead to birth defects like conditions in which the brain and skull remain underdeveloped. In order to protect the child during pregnancy, the expecting mother may be given one injection in the first trimester and another injection in the middle of the second trimester.

This approach belongs to a class of treatment, known as passive immunotherapy, in which antibodies are injected to provide immediate protection against Zika virus. These antibodies, however, have a short life and they die within weeks or months after being injected in the blood stream. Antibodies protect against Zika by blocking its entry in the cells.


In order to carry out this experiment, Watkins and his team collected 91 antibodies from a patient infected with Zika. Then, they selected three antibodies that could be used against Zika and cloned copies to use as injections.

Four lab monkeys were injected with the antibodies after being exposed to Zika virus. During the three weeks of observation, none of the monkeys developed Zika infection. However, a control group of monkeys after being exposed to Zika virus got infected with the same. Further testing is required to be done as animal findings don’t necessarily produce same results in humans.

The study author said that this ‘cocktail’ antibody is safe for both mother and child, and when mothers are injected with these antibodies, they cross the placenta to reach the fetus.

The study was published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.