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Friday, March 5th, 2021

University of Miami study concludes antibody cocktails fail as protection for Zika-vulnerable fetuses

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Though found to prevent Zika virus infection in primates, a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies was deemed ineffective in a new study led by the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

Pregnant rhesus macaques were infected, the infection spread to the amniotic fluid and fetal deaths resulted. No mutations occurred in the process and the mothers were cleared of the virus, but ZIKV-neutralizing antibodies could not penetrate the amniotic fluid sufficiently to rid the virus from it.

The fact is, according to Dr. David Watkins, professor and vice chair for the school’s research, that preventing infection in the mother may be significantly easier than stopping the virus’s spread to fetuses, meaning specific therapies may need to be developed to stop mother-to-fetus transmission.

“We observed that ZIKV isolated from pregnant women in Rio de Janeiro also causes fetal infection in pregnant macaques. Unfortunately, we were unable to stop the transmission of virus to the fetus with an antibody cocktail therapy,” Dr. Diogo Magnani, an associate scientist in the Department of Pathology and first author of the study, said.

“Fetal Demise and Failed Antibody Therapy During Zika Virus Infection of Pregnant Macaques,” published recently in the journal Nature Communications.

As a result, the researchers involved are now working to create antibodies that redirect help to the fetus. The results of their first study were published as “Fetal Demise and Failed Antibody Therapy During Zika Virus Infection of Pregnant Macaques” in the journal Nature Communications.