World Should Prepare for Global Microcephaly ‘Epidemic,’ Authors Warn

More than 1.5 million people have Zika infection

The world should prepare for a “global epidemic” of microcephaly as the Zika virus takes root in new countries, according to an article in Lancet Infectious Diseases. In the report, scientists in Brazil provided additional evidence that Zika causes the debilitating disorder––a link already accepted in medical circles.

The authors conducted a case-control study at eight public hospitals in Brazil between January 15 and May 2, 2016. Twenty-four of 30 mothers (80%) of microcephalic infants had laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infection (ZVI) compared with 39 of 61 mothers (64%) of healthy control infants. Forty-one percent of microcephaly cases had evidence of ZVI compared with none of the controls.

This “striking association” between Zika and microcephaly led the researchers to conclude that “the microcephaly epidemic is a result of congenital Zika virus infection.” They added that if this is the case, “we should prepare for the epidemic of microcephaly to expand to all countries with current (local) Zika virus transmission and to those countries where transmission of the virus is likely to spread.”

“We recommend ... that we prepare for a global epidemic of microcephaly and other manifestations of congenital Zika syndrome,” the authors wrote. They also proposed adding ZVI to the list of congenital infections commonly known as TORCH (toxoplasmosis, others [syphilis, varicella-zoster, parvovirus B1], rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes).

More than 1.5 million people worldwide have been infected with the Zika virus, mainly in Brazil, and more than 1,600 babies have been born with microcephaly since last year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There are no therapeutics or vaccines for the infection.

Sources: Medical Xpress; September 15, 2016; and Lancet Infectious Diseases; September 15, 2016.