• By Deborah Balzer

Zika Virus and Microcephaly: Need for More Research

February 22, 2016

Zika virus text over a photo of a mosquito on a fingerAs world health leaders continue to meet and seek ways to fight the Zika virus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has put together a $56 million Zika virus strategic response plan that includes fast-tracking research and development of vaccines.

Currently, there is no vaccine for the mosquito-borne Zika virus which has now been found in 39 countries. Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh says, "A lot more work needs to be done for Zika virus vaccine development, and in part, because of the amount of money being put towards it domestically and internationally, I certainly hope that there is going to be a lot more research and development into developing a Zika virus vaccine."

Watch Dr. Pritish Tosh discuss Zika Virus 

 

Most people who are infected with Zika virus — 80 percent — show no symptoms, and 20 percent have mild symptoms which may include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Dr. Tosh says, "The reasons we are concerned about Zika is because there is now an association with Zika virus infection and a certain birth defect, micocephaly, and we are learning a little bit more that there are cases of microcephaly that seem pretty convincingly that Zika virus is involved."

According to WHO, Brazil has reported 4180 suspected cases of microcephaly, 270 were confirmed and six of the 270 confirmed cases of microcephaly had evidence of Zika infection. Dr. Pritish Tosh says, "We don't know the percentage of microcephaly that is occurring in Brazil because of Zika virus. And, that needs to be elucidated further. We also don't know what percentage of pregnant women who are infected with Zika virus end up developing microcephaly in their child because of the Zika virus. These are all very important questions that epidemiologically need to be addressed before we can really understand the risk of Zika virus infection in pregnant women."

Officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) are also exploring a possible link between Zika virus and a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).

Journalists: Broadcast quality video is available in the downloads.

For more on Zika virus:

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Zika: Is There a Connection?  (2/17/2016)
Zika Virus Impacts Blood Donations  (2/5/2016)
Transmission of Zika Virus and Dangers of Mosquitoes  (2/4/2016)
WHO Says Microcephaly-Zika Virus Link International Emergency   (2/1/2016)
Mayo Clinic Minute: Zika Virus   (1/21/2016)

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