Just in case we needed any further confirmation that Irish women are tough as nails: the latest news from Trinity College Dublin is that Irish women with super immune systems might pave the way for a Zika vaccine.
Trinity Professor Cliona O'Farrelly is calling for study volunteers from a group of Irish women who, against all odds, managed to remain in good health following the Anti-D contamination scandal that shocked Ireland during the 1970s.
Anti-D immunoglobulin was a special transfusion derived from donated blood, given to new mothers whose blood type was Rhesus Negative but who delivered Rhesus Positive babies. Prior to the use of Anti-D, this scenario led to cases of infant mortality where, following the birth of her first, Rhesus Positive child, the mother developed antibodies which then jeopardized the life of any future Rhesus Positive babies she conceived.
In at least two incidents, which only came to light in the 1990s, donor blood contaminated with jaundice and hepatitis was used to produce the Anti-D, and led to a ticking time bomb health crisis for women who received the contaminated Anti-D: a dangerous train of Hepatitis C that produced few obvious immediate symptoms but yeas later led to numerous cases of liver disease. Up to 100,000 women were thought to be at risk.
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Ultimately, testing revealed that 1,200 women had been exposed to the virus, with a few hundred developing serious health problems.
However, a number of the women who were exposed never got sick.
These are the candidates the Trinity scientists believe could help them develop a tactic for battling Zika, the mosquito-borne virus for which there is currently no vaccine or cure.
"We think that they have a particularly super-dooper immune system which we think managed to keep away the virus," Professor O’Farelly told BreakingNews.ie
"And we've managed to study a small number of these women and have got some idea of how this immune system works, but we need a much larger study to really confirm that."