Global health R&D at work in Missouri
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine have discovered that the Zika virus uses the process of autophagy, or cellular waste disposal—a key feature of the placental barrier—to infect the fetus. Their research also showed that an existing malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, can protect the fetus by blocking this process. The drug is already approved for short-term use in pregnant women. Further studies are needed before it can be used for the duration of pregnancy. Counterintuitively, hydroxychloroquine blocks Zika by lowering the body’s ability to clear out invaders.