Zika update: Enough blood to go around & why health affects could be worse than previously thought

While a definitive link between Zika virus and microcephaly has still not been established, the nature of the impacts the infection may have on developing fetuses could be getting more complicated.

In a paper published in PLOS ONE: Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers detail the case of a 20-year-old pregnant Brazilian woman whose fetus developed complications beyond those of microcephaly, the most predominant birth defect associated with Zika virus. The findings support a link between Zika and conditions called hydrops fetalis and hydrocephaly, in which much of the brain is missing and fluid is found in its place.

"This case report of a fetus provides additional evidence for the link between [Zika virus] infection and microcephaly," the authors wrote in the paper. "Furthermore, it serves as an alert to clinicians that in addition to central nervous system and ophthalmological manifestations, congenital [Zika virus] infection may cause hydrops fetalis and fetal demise. Since the majority (73%) of [Zika virus] infections are asymptomatic, it is likely that exposures in pregnant women, such as in the case of our patient, often go unnoticed."

The woman in question did not exhibit symptoms commonly associated with infection from Zika virus.

Additionally, on Wednesday the AABB Interorganizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism determined that the current U.S. blood supply is adequate to meet the transfusion needs of patients with active Zika virus infections in areas where concerns over the virus have curtailed blood donations, according to a statement.

Earlier in the week, the TexasMedicalCenter in Houston reported the development of a rapid detection test based on RNA identification, the first ever to be used in hospitals. However, little news has sprung up on the vaccine front, though researchers seem to be redoubling efforts to make advances.

Researchers at the VaccineResearchCenter at Maryland's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are hard at work on preliminary Zika vaccine testing on animals, but have their sights set on bigger game, NPR reports.

The researchers hope to speed the process by recruiting volunteers to undergo vaccine tests. Willing participants would be given a dose of an experimental Zika vaccine, then later injected with Zika virus to test how the vaccine holds up.

"The limitations would be you'd have to do this in young people who were volunteering to do this and who were not going to get pregnant," Barney Graham, MD, deputy director of the NIAID, told NPR.

Hoping to mirror results of a similar vaccine creation progression for a strain of Dengue fever that only produced a rash, researchers expect to have this type of volunteer testing underway by the fall.

More articles on infection control:

CDC investigates 14 new sexually transmitted Zika cases in US
WHO says women in countries hit hard by Zika should breastfeed
Michigan officials confirm first Zika case


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