Saturday, 16 July 2011

Babies first bite

Good day Zombiology Students,

Today’s ZomBlog aims to answer a question from a student who attended my lecture during the Brighton Festival Fringe. He asks, “if a pregnant woman is bitten by a zombie, would the baby become infected?”

From a young age Zombie children are able to perform cesarean sections.
Setting aside why someone wants to know that in the first place, we are left with a rather interesting question.

Regular visitors to the blog will know our research focuses on how a prion disease, like mad cow disease, could cause Zombieism. In this blog we’ll look at both prion diseases and viruses.

Many think that vertical transmission from mother to offspring, is one of the ways prion disease spreads among members of the animal kingdom. To confirm if this is the case in humans is far more difficult. 

There has been one potential case of a woman with a prion disease (vCJD) giving birth to a baby that then went on to develop the condition (nvCJD). Scans of the child indicated what appeared to be the characteristic tissue damage in the brain that is seen in all prion diseases, but mother-child transfer was not confirmed.

We're not mad, just eccentric.
One of our leading Zombieism researchers, Dr. Katie White, discusses this further:
“As far as I can work out this hasn't really been proven. I've examined a more recent and reliable article that says of 9 known cases of women with vCJD giving birth, none of their babies have developed CJD (but due to the long time it takes to develop symptoms, they might have the disease but just don’t show symptoms yet). They tried to detect the rogue prion in the placenta, uterus and amniotic fluid of a vCJD patient who gave birth, but they could only detect the normal form of the prion.”    
Doctor Katie hard at work in the Zombie Institute
Let’s now look at viruses. We’ll use our favourite comparison for Zombieism, Rabies. Rabies is a viral disease that is most commonly spread by biting, just like with fictional Zombies. But that’s not the only way it can spread.

In 1981 a nine month pregnant woman entered a Turkish Clinic after having been bitten 32 days earlier by a dog. The following day birth was induced, but the baby died suddenly after 40 hours. Later tests revealed the presence of the rabies virus in both mother and child. This is thought to be one of the first cases of placental transmission.

So to conclude today’s blog, and answer our question, let’s return to Dr. Katie, “If Zombieism is caused by a virus then yes transfer of the disease to the baby is certainly possible. But if it’s caused by a prion then the transfer seems to be a lot less likely. However, knowing that Zombies eat anything, it is most likely that a Zombie mother would probably eat the baby. Therefore I don't think Zombie babies are going to be a very big threat.”

Keep your question’s coming in! Here at the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies we’re always happy to answer your science queries on the shuffling superstars of the horror world.    

Best wishes,

Doctor Austin

Doctor Austin ZITS BSz MSz DPep is head of the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies and Zombiologist Royal to Her Majesty the Queen

See the Zombie Science 1Z Lecture –
Wrexham Science Festival:
Wednesday 20th July 2011
Glynd┼Ár University, Wrexham 
Shows: 1400 & 1800 (2 & 6pm) Tickets: Free – must be booked in advance
Suitable for ages 13+ 

References:
Mikrobiyol Bul.: Transplacental rabies in humans, 1985 Apr; 19(2):95-9.
Leake J: Tragedy of baby feared born with nvCJD, 05 Mar 00, Sunday Times
Xiangzhu Xiao, et al: Failure to Detect the Presence of Prions in the Uterine and Gestational Tissues from a Gravida with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, May 2009, The American Journal of Pathology