#3: NIH Examines Outcomes of Postnatal Zika Infection in Guatemalan Infants & Children
This new study can have a positive impact on families living in rural Guatemala, a place that is fraught with poverty, in that it can provide access to an early Zika diagnosis. The researchers are looking for answers regarding whether the virus is capable of interfering “with the normal development of young children.” According to Antonio Bolaños, MD, medical director at the FUNSALUD clinic where the study will occur, “any Zika effect on neurodevelopment [of impoverished children in the country] will add burden to their futures.”
The researchers aim to enroll around 1200 infants and children (all under 5 years) in the study. In addition, they plan to include a cohort consisting of 300 children who were infected with Zika and/or Dengue virus postnatally. These children were also included in the University of Colorado’s surveillance study. They will also enroll a cohort of around 500 newborn babies who have not been infected with Zika virus, as well as these babies’ mothers and siblings. The cohort consisting of siblings will comprise about 400 children who are under 5 years of age.
Continue reading about this study on postnatal Zika infection here
#2: River Blindness Vaccine R&D Gets $3.6 Million Grant
Transmitted by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus
through bites from blackflies, river blindness is the world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness. The disease is endemic to 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and has also been transmitted in Yemen as well as in parts of Latin America. The blackfly that carries the parasite breeds in the fast-flowing waters of rivers and streams, and once a female adult worm enters a human body, it produces larval worms that travel to the skin and eyes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an adult O. volvulus
worm can live inside a human for up to 15 years, and female worms can produce thousands of larvae each day. While some infected individuals do not experience symptoms, those who do may develop itchy skin rashes, nodules under the skin, vision changes, and eventually blindness.
River blindness is typically treated with the anti-parasite medication ivermectin, and the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that in the absence of a vaccine to prevent these infections, the disease has been largely mitigated or eliminated through insecticide spraying and other methods. From 1974 to 2002, the Onchocerciasis Control Programme in West Africa used insect spraying and ivermectin distribution to relieve 40 million cases of river blindness, prevent blindness in 600,000 individuals, and protect 18 million children from being born into the threat of the disease.
More on the research and development of a vaccine for river blindness is available here