Zika-Associated Brain Injuries Found in Monkey Fetus

Scientists image fetal brain lesions in a pigtail macaque whose mother was infected with the virus while pregnant.

Sep 13, 2016
Tracy Vence

MRI of the fetal brain in a Zika virus–infected pigtail macaque UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTONAfter scientists infected a pregnant pigtail macaque with Zika virus, the primate’s fetus developed brain lesions similar to those observed in some human babies born to Zika-infected mothers, the team reported yesterday (September 12) in Nature Medicine.

“Our results remove any lingering doubt that the Zika virus is incredibly dangerous to the developing fetus and provides details as to how the brain injury develops,” study coauthor Kristina Adams Waldorf of the University of Washington School of Medicine said in a statement.

The results point to the possibility that pigtail macaques may be useful animal models of Zika virus infection, Dave O’Connor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison told STAT News, but he emphasized that more work was needed. “I think that given what we know about human Zika infection, it’s really tempting to say ‘Aha! This is really showing the same thing in a macaque. But with [a single animal] and without appropriate controls that were imaged the exact same way at the exact same time points, I would just be a little bit more cautious than that.”