Zika Virus Threat Grows
The Zika outbreak continues to spread—and its effects worsen—since the virus re-emerged last year in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who teamed with NICHD acting director Dr. Catherine Spong to update day 2 of ACD on NIH’s efforts to address the outbreak.
As of June, 48 countries/territories—39 in the Americas/Caribbean—have active Zika virus transmission. The virus itself is considered relatively mild and most infected individuals recover from it within days, Fauci explained. However, devastating Zika-associated birth defects, a potential link to Guillain-Barré syndrome, Zika’s capability of being transmitted sexually and other as yet unknown health effects due to the infectious disease have escalated it as a top global research priority and health threat.
“The impact on pregnancy goes far beyond what we’re seeing with microcephaly,” Spong said. “Many gaps exist about what to expect in pregnancy. We need more data.”
Several vaccine development trials are in various stages of being launched by NIAID with collaborating institutions. In addition, NIAID, NICHD and NIEHS have partnered on a Zika in Infants and Pregnancy (ZIP) trial of up to 10,000 participants to identify and document the virus’s effects on pregnant women and their fetuses and infants.
Zika update slides are online at http://acd.od.nih.gov/presentations/062016_Fauci.pdf and http://acd.od.nih.gov/presentations/062016_Spong.pdf.