The mosquito-borne virus responsible for causing Rift Valley fever may be even deadlier than Zika for pregnant women and human fetuses, finds a new research.

Zika caused a major storm when cases of serious congenital defects including microcephaly were reported in babies born to pregnant women who were infected.

The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites from Aedes aegypti.
The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites from Aedes aegypti.

As per a New York Times report the fever is mostly found in livestock in sub-Saharan Africa, where its outbreak has been noted to affect 90 to 100 percent of pregnant cows, leading to miscarriages and stillbirths.

However, more and more cases are being detected in humans with each passing year, causing health issues and affecting the liver. The fever has spread beyond Africa to Saudi Arabia, where it led to at least 700 deaths in late 2000, shared study leader Amy Hartman, disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Study

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, was performed on rats.

65 percent of births to infected mothers died, compared to 25% born to uninfected ones.

Each infected mother lost at least one pup, and all of the infected mothers’ offspring contracted the virus. Moreover, pregnant rats were also more susceptible to death from Rift Valley fever than the rest.

Climate change can alter how emerging infectious diseases will spread. As mosquito populations move and change, we have a potential for this to spread far beyond its normal boundaries.
Amy Hartman

Notably, the infected mothers’ placentas harbored more virus than any other tissue in the body.

“We need more research into the epidemiology; how it causes disease and how to prevent it,” Dr. McMillen said.

The virus is a cause for worry because no vaccines or treatments currently exist to prevent or cure it.

The World Health Organsiation has called it a ‘potential public health emergency’.