U.S., Brazil Join Forces to Fight Zika Virus

Scientists ponder link to microcephaly

U.S. and Brazilian medical experts have launched a research partnership to find a vaccine against the Zika virus, according to a Reuters report. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with experts from the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services met with their counterparts from Brazil’s leading biomedical research institutions.

An estimated 1.5 million people have been infected by the Zika virus in Brazil.

Among the issues the experts face is the need to agree on the evidence that Zika is causing the hundreds of confirmed cases in Brazil of babies born with microcephaly and other neurologic disorders. The World Health Organization recently announced that Zika’s link to microcephaly could become clearer within weeks.

While that relation has not been proven scientifically, Brazilian authorities say they are certain Zika is the cause because most of the cases of microcephaly occurred in the geographic area that was most severely affected by the Zika outbreak. Brazil’s Health Ministry announced on February 17 that it was considering most of the 508 confirmed cases of microcephaly in the country to be linked to the Zika virus. The government will distribute 500,000 molecular biology test kits this year for diagnosing Zika in laboratories throughout Brazil.

Source: Reuters; February 18, 2016.