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Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2016 May;111(5):287-93. doi: 10.1590/0074-02760160085. Epub 2016 Apr 29.

Zika virus damages the human placental barrier and presents marked fetal neurotropism.

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Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Curitiba, PR, Brasil.
Laboratório de Virologia Molecular, Instituto Carlos Chagas, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Curitiba, PR, Brasil.
Instituto de Medicina Tropical, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, RN, Brasil.


An unusually high incidence of microcephaly in newborns has recently been observed in Brazil. There is a temporal association between the increase in cases of microcephaly and the Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic. Viral RNA has been detected in amniotic fluid samples, placental tissues and newborn and fetal brain tissues. However, much remains to be determined concerning the association between ZIKV infection and fetal malformations. In this study, we provide evidence of the transplacental transmission of ZIKV through the detection of viral proteins and viral RNA in placental tissue samples from expectant mothers infected at different stages of gestation. We observed chronic placentitis (TORCH type) with viral protein detection by immunohistochemistry in Hofbauer cells and some histiocytes in the intervillous spaces. We also demonstrated the neurotropism of the virus via the detection of viral proteins in glial cells and in some endothelial cells and the observation of scattered foci of microcalcifications in the brain tissues. Lesions were mainly located in the white matter. ZIKV RNA was also detected in these tissues by real-time-polymerase chain reaction. We believe that these findings will contribute to the body of knowledge of the mechanisms of ZIKV transmission, interactions between the virus and host cells and viral tropism.

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