Prof. Dana Wolf, head of the Clinical Virology Unit in the Dept. of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the Hadassah Medical Center, is a world-renowned specialist in viruses and the damage they can cause to unborn babies. Responding to global anxiety about the Zika virus, Prof. Wolf and her staff recently opened a new laboratory dedicated to defeating it. The Zika virus, she says, “is dangerous in the interface between mother and unborn child.”
According to Prof. Wolf, Zika, like Rubella, can cause a variety of serious birth defects. Rubella, however, once a threatening virus that plagued the Western world, has now been taken care of through vaccination. The two viruses differ, though, in that unlike Rubella, Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes, like the Dengue virus. Dengue, however, though in the same family as Zika, is not associated with birth defects.
Hadassah, under the direction of Prof. Benjamin Reubinoff, head of its Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center, has been conducting research on a more dangerous virus called cytomegalovirus (CVM), which remains in our bodies forever. Hadassah research has revealed the attack pattern of the virus, which strikes the fetus just as nerve cells are being developed. Prof. Wolf and her staff will apply the tools to Zika that were developed by Hadassah to study CMV. "We have had so many requests for help that we decided to work on this," said Prof. Wolf, who reports that Hadassah received the virus for research from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.