Vertical transmission of the Zika virus (ZIKV) causes severe fetal defects, but the exact pathogenic mechanism is unclear. We identified up to a 10,480-fold higher expression of viral attachment factors , , and and a 3880-fold increase in ZIKV infectiousness/propagation in human term decidual stromal cells versus trophoblasts. Moreover, levels of viral attachment factors and ZIKV are significantly increased, whereas expression of innate immune response genes are significantly decreased, in human first trimester versus term decidual cells. ZIKV-infected decidual cell supernatants increased cytotrophoblasts infection up to 252-fold compared with directly infected cytotrophoblasts. Tizoxanide treatment efficiently inhibited Zika infection in both maternal and fetal cells. We conclude that ZIKV permissiveness, as well as innate immune responsiveness of human decidual cells, are gestational age dependent, and decidual cells augment ZIKV infection of primary human cytotrophoblast cultures, which are otherwise ZIKV resistant. Human decidual cells may act as reservoirs for trimester-dependent placental transmission of ZIKV, accounting for the higher Zika infection susceptibility and more severe fetal sequelae observed in early versus late pregnancy. Moreover, tizoxanide is a promising agent in preventing perinatal Zika transmission as well as other RNA viruses such as coronavirus.
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