NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand scientists say it’s too early for them to conclude whether Zika is causing the birth defects seen in the country’s Zika case-tracking study.
But the findings could help scientists in their ongoing investigation of the virus.
“We are very excited about these results, they suggest there may be more than one possible explanation for these problems,” said Dr Sarah Copley, a health scientist at the University of Otago.
The findings, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, provide a “significant window” into the Zika-linked birth defects in New Zealand.
The researchers have been investigating a subset of Zika cases for more than two years, and the results, published last month, were the most definitive yet.
The team looked at cases where pregnant women had been exposed to Zika and found that the virus can cause a number of birth defects, including microcephaly, microceles, microdeformed babies and microcerebral abruption.
The study is a follow-up to the birth defect finding from two years ago, when a different team found the virus could cause microcefresis.
But Dr Copleys group says there are many more birth defects that the study did not find.
The results of the new study, which is only a small sample size, are important because they offer clues into how Zika may affect birth outcomes, said Dr Coulton, who is based at the Otago University of Technology.
The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects and birth defects associated with infections in mice, so the new results are an important reminder that the effects of Zika can be seen in animals, she said.
Dr Cople, who was not involved in the new research, said there were still a lot of unanswered questions.
The latest results, she added, suggest there are more than a few possible reasons why the new birth defects might be caused by Zika.
“It’s a really interesting result, and I think that’s a good sign that we are looking at some very interesting possibilities,” she said in an interview.
“But at the moment, I think we are still in the early stages of this.”
Dr Coulley said she and her colleagues have been trying to work out what might be causing the Zika birth defects.
“What are the things that could cause the Zika to cause microcephalic or microcephalic birth defects?
How does that relate to the Zika infection?”
Dr Coughlin said there was some suggestion Zika could cause birth defects by interfering with the immune system, but it was unclear if Zika caused birth defects when the immune systems were not working properly.
She said some of the research had been “relatively quiet” and it was important to follow up with the results to see if there were any changes in the data over time.
“This is just one small piece of the puzzle, but I think it is very encouraging that there is a lot more work to do.”
Zika: What you need to know about the virusWhat is Zika?
The Zika disease is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause serious birth defects including microcephalitis, microcephalus, microeclampsia, and microcephali, or microcephalotic or microfractured babies.
There are no known vaccines or treatments for Zika.
The first case of microcePHAR was reported in the US in August and there has been no confirmed cases in New England since.
There is a small but growing number of babies born with microcepsy in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which may be linked to Zika, but so far there has not been a clear link between the two.
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