CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 384-4638
Release: June 13, 2001
UI investigator receives grant to study virus that causes fetal brain
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa Health Care researcher has received
a three-year, $245,000 grant from the March of Dimes Research Foundation to
study neurologic birth defects caused by infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis
virus (LCMV), a virus that can cause fetal brain damage. The award was effective
The award will allow investigators to expand current LCMV research at the
UI, said lead investigator Daniel Bonthius, M.D., Ph.D., UI assistant professor
"We have found that the LCMV infects four specific brain regions and
causes very different disease patterns as well as different disease severity
and time-courses in each of the four regions," Bonthius said. "We
will investigate why four brain regions infected simultaneously with a single
viral species can differ so dramatically from each other in their disease
Transmitted by field mice and other rodents, LCMV is a prevalent human pathogen.
An estimated 10 percent of all people will be infected at some point in their
lives. Most people become only moderately ill when infected and fully recover.
However, if the infection occurs during pregnancy, the fetal brain may be
severely and permanently damaged, which can result in mental retardation,
epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
"A second key question on which we will focus our research is why the
fetal brain is so much more vulnerable than the adult brain is to LCMV-induced
damage," Bonthius added.
Although no specific treatment for LCMV infection exists, pregnant women
can minimize their risk of becoming infected with the virus by taking steps
to eliminate mice in their homes, especially during the fall and early winter
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between
the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient
care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.