Placental pathology of zika virus: Viral infection of the placenta induces villous stromal macrophage (Hofbauer Cell) proliferation and hyperplasia

Avi Z. Rosenberg, Yu Weiying, D. Ashley Hill, Christine A. Reyes, David A. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context.-The placenta is an important component in understanding the fetal response to intrauterine Zika virus infection, but the pathologic changes in this organ remain largely unknown. Hofbauer cells are fetal-derived macrophages normally present in the chorionic villous stroma. They have been implicated in a variety of physiological and pathologic processes, in particular involving infectious agents. Objectives.-To characterize the fetal and maternal responses and viral localization in the placenta following Zika virus transmission to an 11 weeks' gestation fetus. The clinical course was notable for prolonged viremia in the mother and extensive neuronal necrosis in the fetus. The fetus was delivered at 21 weeks' gestation after pregnancy termination. Design.-The placenta was evaluated by using immunohistochemistry for inflammatory cells (macrophages/ monocytes [Hofbauer cells], B and T lymphocytes) and proliferating cells, and an RNA probe to Zika virus. The fetal brain and the placenta were previously found to be positive for Zika virus RNA by reverse transcription- polymerase chain reaction. Results.-The placenta demonstrated prominently enlarged, hydropic chorionic villi with hyperplasia and focal proliferation of Hofbauer cells. The degree of Hofbauer cell hyperplasia gave an exaggerated immature appearance to the villi. No acute or chronic villitis, villous necrosis, remote necroinflammatory abnormalities, chorioamnionitis, funisitis, or hemorrhages were present. An RNA probe to Zika virus was positive in villous stromal cells, presumably Hofbauer cells. Conclusions.-Zika virus placental infection induces proliferation and prominent hyperplasia of Hofbauer cells in the chorionic villi but does not elicit villous necrosis or a maternal or fetal lymphoplasmacellular or acute inflammatory cell reaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-48
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017


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