The majority of infected patients do not show symptoms or have mild illness with low-grade fever. However, foetuses exposed to the virus are at risk of neurological defects, including microcephaly.
The team expects the latest finding to help in developing screening tests for the virus, and offer better insights into the mechanism behind the infection leading to foetal abnormalities.
USC Keck School of Medicine Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology research associate Suan-Sin Foo said: “The highest risk of birth defects is from Zika virus infection during the first and second trimester. A prenatal test has the potential to relieve the concerns of many expectant mothers.”