A molecular model of the Zika virus.A molecular model of the Zika virus. Science Source

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first warning about Zika in January, the agency encouraged pregnant women to avoid areas like Brazil where the virus is endemic. But the question of whether the infection in pregnant women is connected to brain defects in their babies has remained open. Cases of microcephaly, which shrinks the heads and brains of children, have skyrocketed in places with Zika, but epidemiologists have been unable to prove that infections in mothers are directly causing the defects.

Now the connection looks a little tighter. Today, the CDC released data on nine pregnant US travelers with Zika virus. One of those women gave birth to a child with severe microcephaly. Two pregnancies ended in miscarriages. Two more ended in abortions, one after fetal tests revealed abnormalities in brain development.

From that case report:

At approximately 20 weeks’ gestation, [the patient] underwent a fetal ultrasound that suggested absence of the corpus callosum, ventriculomegaly, and brain atrophy; subsequent fetal magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated severe brain atrophy. Amniocentesis was performed, and Zika virus RNA was detected by RT-PCR testing. After discussion with her health care providers, the patient elected to terminate her pregnancy.

Significantly, the more severe outcomes in this admittedly small group appeared in six women who reported Zika symptoms during the first trimester of pregnancy. The link still isn’t causal, of course, but two women who showed symptoms during their second and third trimesters have given birth to seemingly healthy children. Another woman infected during her second trimester is still pregnant.

Zika’s symptoms in adults aren’t severe—usually just a fever, a rash, and some joint pain—so establishing a fast, reliable test to confirm infections, like this Texas lab is working on, will clarify the link between Zika and microcephaly. Still, the circumstantial evidence is strong, and the CDC’s travel recommendations stand.

See original article here – 

CDC Sees Birth Defects in Pregnant US Travelers With Zika