HealthDay News — Infection with the Zika virus may protect against future infection, but pregnancy seems to extend how long the virus stays in the body, according to findings published online in Nature Communications.

In the study, researchers infected rhesus macaque monkeys with the Zika virus strain that emerged in South America in 2015.

The investigators found that those monkeys resisted infection with the same strain 10 weeks later. However, the researchers also found that the virus remained in the blood of pregnant female monkeys for 30 to 70 days after infection, compared with 10 days in non-pregnant females.

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“We have good news for most people: If you are not pregnant and not at risk of becoming pregnant, you probably don’t need to be worried about Zika,” study leader David O’Connor, PhD, a professor of pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a university news release. “But my concern for Zika virus in pregnancy is much higher now than it was six months ago.”

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1. Dudley DM, Aliota MT, Mohr EL, et al.  A rhesus macaque model of Asian-lineage Zika virus infection. Nature Comm. 2016; doi:10.1038/ncomms12204