Zika virus researchers point out the connection of the infection with skull malformations

Zika virus researchers point out the connection of the infection with skull malformations / Health News
For months, the tropical Zika virus continues to spread in various countries in South and Central America. It has long been suspected that infection in pregnant women may lead to malformations of the unborn child. US researchers have now substantiated this relationship and report in the "New England Journal of Medicine" of their findings.

Virus has been spreading for months
The Zika virus has been rampant for months in various countries in South and Central America. Through travelers, the pathogen repeatedly arrives in countries outside the affected regions, and several Zika cases have also been confirmed in Germany. The virus has long been suspected to be the cause of the so-called "microcephaly", a developmental peculiarity in which the skull is unusually small compared to the normal state. This can lead to brain malformations, as a result of which the affected children are often mentally handicapped and suffer from neurological disorders. However, there was no proof of this link so far.

Infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy can lead to malformations of the unborn child. (Image: airdone / fotolia.com)

Turning point in the fight against the virus
On Wednesday, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) presented proof of the link between Zika infection and microcephaly. According to CDC director Tom Frieden, this means a "turning point in the fight against Zika", reports the news agency "dpa". However, as the CDC researchers write in the New England Journal of Medicine, there is not one piece of evidence, but rather a chain of evidence from various studies and extensive research. "Based on the review of these data, we conclude that there is a causal link between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly, as well as other severe brain abnormalities," experts said in their article.

Further research is urgently needed
Despite the new findings, many aspects remained unclear, the researchers write. Above all, this includes the important question of how often an infection actually leads to skull malformation. Because the evidence produced does not mean that any infection with the Zika virus adversely affect the unborn child, the researchers emphasize. "As we saw during Zika's recent outbreak, some infected women gave birth to children who seem to be healthy," the report says.

Accordingly, further investigations are urgently needed to clarify the open questions. On the advice of the US Department of Health, pregnant women should continue to avoid traveling in areas with Zika, or to protect themselves from mosquito bites when living in an affected area. In addition, it is important that couples in these areas prevent sexual transmission through the use of appropriate contraceptives, according to the CDC.

Virus can cause damage even after birth
More recently, Brazilian researchers have given the alarming hint that Zika may be even more of a threat than previously thought. Zika researcher Stevens Rehen of the Instituto D'Or in Rio de Janeiro told the dpa that Zika could affect the child not only in embryos but also after birth. According to him, the damage to nerve cells could endanger hearing and vision loss, and there was also a noticeable increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in Brazil. This is an inflammatory disease of the nerves, characterized by increased paralysis and sensory disturbances, and in the worst case can be fatal.

Brazil is said to be the country most affected by the virus, with estimates estimated that more than one million people are infected. The number of confirmed cases of microcephaly was, according to the "dpa" according to the Ministry of Health increased to 1113, in 189 mothers could therefore be detected the Zika virus. This is mainly transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito Aedes Aegypti, also dengue and yellow fever can be given by this species. Aedes Aegypti are widespread in many parts of Brazil, now the country even uses military in the fight against the dangerous Zika mosquitoes.

Government wants to protect athletes and visitors to the Olympic Games
With an expansion of the mosquito control program, the Brazilian government also wants to protect the active and visitors of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (5 to 21 August) from the virus. As the dpa reports, was in the course of more than 50,000 hotels, bars and restaurants throughout the country a package of measures for better control of mosquitoes have been sent, as well as the preventive and diagnostic measures were strengthened during the games. More than 260,000 health workers should therefore pay more attention to the fight against the mosquito - because a vaccine is not yet available. The organizers of the Olympic Games, however, emphasize that the insects would hardly be active at the time of the Games. Because the country is located almost completely in the southern hemisphere of the earth, the South American winter begins there in June.

Infection goes unnoticed in most cases
The Zika virus spread to the Americas within just a few months in more than 20 countries and has now appeared in around 50 countries. It is not fatal and, in most cases, an infection is so mild that it is not noticed by the person affected. In about 20 percent of those infected, however, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and body aches occur, in some cases it also causes skin rash. (No)