New study strengthens link between Zika and serious birth defects
- A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine further solidified the link between Zika virus in pregnant women and severe fetal abnormalities, including fetal death and central nervous system damage.
- Researchers in Brazil evaluated 88 women who visited a clinic in Rio de Janeiro, 72 of whom had tested positive positive for Zika. Twenty-nine percent women (12/42) who had undergone ultrasound testing had abnormal readings.
- There have been 640 confirmed cases of microcephaly in infants in Brazil, with most suspected to be tied to Zika. Over 4,000 other cases of microcephaly have been reported but not confirmed.
Since the first news of a Zika outbreak emerged last year, scientists have been working in overdrive to further understand the little-studied disease. Initially, transmission was thought to be exclusive to mosquito-borne vectors. However, a number of cases of sexual transmission between infected men and women have been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This study expands the suspected grave impact of Zika on fetuses in the womb, as researchers found evidence of abnormalities beyond microcephaly. It also appears the virus can harm fetuses in the third trimester, even if infection occurs earlier.
"We have found a strong link between Zika and adverse pregnancy outcomes, which haven't been documented before. Even if the fetus isn't affected, the virus appears to damage the placenta, which can lead to fetal death," Dr. Karin Nielson, MD, a lead investigator in this study, told Reuters.
The FDA recently cleared an antibody-based diagnostic developed by the CDC under an emergency use authorization.