From the CNN Newsroom…
(CNN) — In 2016, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the Zika virus caused birth defects in babies born to women who had been infected while pregnant. This was the first mosquito-borne disease known to cause birth defects.
Since then, images of babies with underdeveloped heads, born to pregnant women infected with Zika virus, have touched hearts around the world.
Now, a study suggests that two viruses that are related to Zika can cause similar birth defects.
West Nile and Powassan viruses caused fetal death in infected pregnant mice, the researchers say.
“All of these viruses are spread by insects, and all of these viruses are currently spreading in the Americas,” said Dr. Jonathan Miner, senior author of the study and an assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“Powassan and West Nile virus are flaviviruses, in the same family as Zika virus,” he said. These viruses are transmitted by infected ticks and mosquitoes.
Miner and his colleagues decided to experiment on an assortment of four viruses plus Zika to “determine whether certain traits of these viruses may be unique to one family or another,” Miner said.