*Updated February 22, 2016 at 7:16 AM EST
The Zika virus first gained international attention when it was touted as the suspected cause of an observed increase in the prevalence of infants born with physically visible microcephaly in South American countries. As time went by, and the link was confirmed, and additional research revealed that the virus was the culprit behind a number of additional complications, including Guillain-Barré Syndrome in adults. As researchers continue to study the Zika virus, new information on complications continues to come to light.
Since our inception in February 2016, Contagion® has kept readers current on all of the recent findings on the Zika virus—from news about additional modes of transmission, to Zika-related complications, to the first baby born with microcephaly in the tri-state area. Most importantly, we were among the first to report when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspected local Zika transmission in the United States, and when it was finally confirmed.
As travel continues to increase and Zika continues to spread across geographical borders, the risk of transmitting the virus to local mosquito populations constantly increases. As such, the sharing of Zika research across borders is becoming all the more important. To this end, the First International Conference on Zika Virus, which will showcase Zika research from around the world, is set to begin this Wednesday, February 22, 2017 in Washington, DC, and Contagion® will be there to speak with key opinion leaders on Zika and highlight their research findings.
The Conference Program—which consists of seven main sessions—features topics such as Zika epidemiology, diagnostics, virology, clinical spectrum of the virus, potential vaccines, drugs of dual purpose, Zika in pregnancy, Zika’s impact on the fetus, and travel effects. Research on other mosquito-borne infections, such as Dengue, yellow fever, and Chikungunya, will also be presented and explored in relation to Zika.
Some of the research Contagion® is set to cover includes, a presentation by Viviane S. Boaventura, from Federal Univesrity of Bahia, in Salvador, Brazil. Her team analyzed auditory function in 13 infants who were possibly infected with Zika virus in utero and diagnosed with microcephaly. According to the researchers, in the first auditory exam, two infants who were diagnosed with severe microcephaly also presented with “unilateral sensorial hearing loss.” In a follow-up exam, test results for seven of the nine infants (including the two previously mentioned) appeared normal; however, these infants “failed to present response to broadband sound at 55 dBA.” More information on the team’s proposed explanations for these results will be revealed during the conference.
In addition, Contagion® will be covering a presentation to be presented by Carmen D. Zorrilla, MD, from University of Puerto Rico, in which Dr. Zorilla and her researchers take a closer look at head growth patterns among infants who were congenitally infected with the Zika virus, but did not present with any “prenatally detectable structural anomalies or maternal conditions” that would have affected fetal development. The retrospective study analyzed 281 fetuses which the researchers split into groups based on time of infection during pregnancy. The research team found that brain damage occurred in those fetuses that were infected between week 7 and 14 of pregnancy (Group II). The researchers concluded that infection during this period of pregnancy has the greatest effect on head growth; however, those infected during 26 weeks of gestation had statistically different smaller head circumference which could be associated to neurodevelopmental abnormalities later in life and we will be speaking with the team to find out why they believe this is so.
Aside from presentations, there will be three keynote speakers at the conference: Robert S. Lanciotte, PhD, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who will discuss current Zika diagnostics and challenges; Jeffrey R. Powell, PhD, from Yale School of Public Health, who will discuss the Zika vector: Aedes aegypti mosquitoes; and Annelies Wilder-Smith, MD, PhD, DTM&H, MIH, FAMS, FACTM, from Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, who will talk about geographical distribution of Zika virus outbreaks, and epidemic response.
If you see any additional presentations from the full Scientific Program that you would like us to cover, please share your thoughts on our Twitter or Facebook pages and we will do our best to accommodate your requests.
Feature Image Source: First International Conference on Zika Virus
Editor's Note: This article originally stated that Dr. Zorrilla's team's findings suggest that congenital infection is most harmful between 7 and 14 weeks of gestation. The article has since been updated.