Over the course of 1 year, the researchers will monitor the “infants, children, and mothers” through home visits, phone calls, and appointments at the FUNSALUD clinic. Study participants will, on a regular basis, provide “body fluid samples” and undergo screening for new potential infection with either Zika, Dengue, or Chikungunya viruses. In addition, the participants will undergo several examinations, including: physical, neurologic, neurodevelopmental, hearing, and eye tests. Families who choose to enroll their children in the study will be provided with preventive counseling. Some of the topics that they will discuss include:
- The best ways to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses
- How to remove standing water in and around the home
- The correct use of mosquito nets, insect repellants, and protective clothing
The chief aims of the study are to “classify these outcomes among children with or without symptoms of Zika virus infection and compare them to the outcomes of other viral infections, such as dengue or chikungunya.” Furthermore, the researchers will also be taking a closer look at “levels of Zika virus nucleic acid” as well as “neutralizing antibodies” to understand if “certain thresholds correlate with specific clinical, neurologic, or neurodevelopmental outcomes.”
The researchers also aim to “characterize the effect of prior maternal Dengue virus infection in Zika virus-infected infants.” They also seek to assess if maternal infection, or a child’s own previous Dengue infection, could result in increased severity of Zika virus in the child “via antibody-dependent enhancement.”
According to the press release, other avenues that researchers wish to find answers to are:
- How long Zika virus RNA can persist in body fluids in infants/young children
- How long Zika virus RNA can persist in maternal breast milk
- If lingering virus impacts clinical and neurologic outcomes
- To determine any potential for virus transmission
The researchers expect the study to take 3 years for completion; however, they predict that preliminary results may be available in 1 year.
They hope that the findings yielded from this study will not only “help inform global public health practices and assist Guatemalan health officials as they seek to understand the risks associated with early childhood Zika infection,” but also help create “healthcare programs that will provide Zika-related healthcare of benefit to Guatemalan children and families.”
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