Study underway about Zika virus in the female genital tract
On July 11, 2016 Prisant et al. published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases pointing to the underway studies investigating "the threat of a woman potentially becoming a chronic ZIka virus carrier."
The first human Zika virus infection was documented in Nigeria in 1954, with very few documented infections after this initial report, until the virus outbreak in 2007 on Yap Island in the western Pacific Ocean. The infection is usually asymptomatic but symptoms can consist of fever, maculopapular rash, arthralgia, and conjunctivitis.
Zika virus infection has been associated with adverse fetal outcomes, including congenital microcephaly, and could lead to pregnancy loss, as was described in a mouse model.1, 2 Presence of Zika virus has been shown in amniotic fluid, which suggests that the virus can cross the placental barrier.3 Zika virus has been isolated from several other body fluids, including blood, urine, saliva, breastmilk, and semen.1 Presence of Zika virus in semen was reported after infection and has been shown to persist even after it is undetectable in blood or urine. Sexual transmission has been described in several publications,1, 4 as man-to-woman or man-to-man transmission.
However, no data are available on the presence of Zika virus in the female genital tract. Thus, the detection of Zika virus in the female genital tract, its clearance kinetics, and its possible persistence would be of utmost importance in the assessment of woman-to-man sexual transmission of the Zika virus, and it could also help clarify the process of mother-to-child vertical transmission.
We describe the case of a woman (aged 27 years) whose Zika virus infection was identified in May, 2016, at the Pointe à Pitre University Hospital (Guadeloupe, France)—an official area of Zika virus outbreak since late April, 2016.
The duration of Zika virus persistence in the female genital tract and its clearance after the disappearance of the symptoms are unknown. Mirroring what was reported in the male genital tract, a possible dissociation between blood and genital samples of RNA results could occur.
Our findings raise the threat of a woman potentially becoming a chronic Zika virus carrier, with the female genital tract persistently expressing the virus RNA. Additional studies are underway to answer those essential questions and to assess what would then be the consequences for women of child-bearing age.
Read the full article here.
Learn more about the Zika Virus from the World Health Organization.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health convened world experts to discuss "Zika: the Current Epidemic, Research Agenda, & Public Health Response" in February 2016. Watch the recorded symposium here.