Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Novel human influenza A virus is capable of breaking the placental barrier to infect foetus

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: City doctors are worried over reports that the novel human influenza A virus is capable of breaking the placental barrier to infect the foetus. Human influenza A virus has been claiming several lives off and on in the city since it was first reported two years ago.

Since a majority of the victims of human influenza A virus are pregnant women, the ability of the virus to pass through the placenta will pose severe risk to the foetus. There have been cases of foetal deaths and abortion due to human influenza A infection carried to the foetus through mothers.

"Though foetal deaths due to influenza virus have been reported in animals, this is the first time that human cases are identified. Doctors have no found a link between infected mothers and foetal deaths. But further research need to be done on the issue," says physician Dr M Azeem.

The latest case is the death of a 20 week foetus after it was exposed to human influenza A virus. Two more such cases were reported in different parts of the country. The amniotic fluid was also found to be infected and this suggests that the virus is capable of passing through the amniotic sac.

According to infectious diseases expert Dr N Suneetha, the transmission of the virus from mother to foetus can be prevented if treatment is started within 48 hours of infection. "Virus passing through the placental barrier is common though it may be new in case of human influenza A. We have cases of dengue virus infecting foetus through placenta. In case of dengue virus, the risk of death of foetus is high. We have also cases of abortion due to viral infection in the foetus through mother," she said.

Doctors point out that what matters is the virulence of the influenza strain, and the immune system of the mother. The infection also affects the over all outcome of the pregnancy.

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