Is the zona pellucida an efficient barrier to viral infection?

A. Van Soom*, A. E. Wrathall, A. Herrler, H. J. Nauwynck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although the transfer of embryos is much less likely to result in disease transmission than the transport of live animals, the sanitary risks associated with embryo transfer continue to be the subject of both scientific investigations and adaptations of national and international legislation. Therefore, the implications are important for veterinary practitioners and livestock breeders. In vivo-derived and in vitro-produced embryos are widely used in cattle and embryos from other species, such as sheep, goats, pigs and horses, are also currently being transferred in fairly significant numbers. Bearing in mind the wide variety of embryos of different species and the correspondingly large number of viruses that are of concern, it is expedient at this time to look again at the importance of the zona pellucida (ZP) as a barrier against viruses and at the susceptibility or otherwise of embryonic cells to viral infection if ever they are exposed. For embryos with an intact ZP, viral infection of the embryo is unlikely to occur. However, the virus may stick to the ZP and, in this case, International Embryo Transfer Society (IETS) washing procedures in combination with trypsin treatment are mandatory. A caveat is the fact that currently more and more types of embryos are becoming available for transfer and scientific data cannot be extrapolated from one species to another. These topics are discussed in the present review.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-31
JournalReproduction Fertility and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • embryo transfer
  • embryo-virus interaction
  • in vitro-derived embryo
  • in vitro-produced embryo
  • livestock


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