Could close relatives of the Zika virus also induce birth defects?

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Although the Zika virus (ZKV) was first identified more than 70 years ago, its ability to induce birth defects – such as microcephaly – was not recognized until the 2015 South American epidemic, which affected more than 1.5 million people.

In a recently published study in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM; MO, USA) have identified that viruses closely related to the ZKV – including West Nile and Powassan – are able to spread from infected pregnant mice to their fetuses, causing brain damage and fetal death.

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