Recent Study Offers Clues To 'Risk Of Zika Birth Defects' In The United States

By Aboki Basira | Dec 15, 2016 | 02:41 AM EST

A study conducted on Zika virus earlier this year suggested that birth defects and other problems associated with the virus were mainly limited to babies born in some parts of Brazil.

The findings, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show the effects on women who were exposed to the virus while pregnant in other countries and then came to the United States. It states that up to 6 percent of those pregnancies resulted in defects in the baby.

"It is not specific to one geographic location. This really helps make the point that Zika virus infection poses a major risk to pregnant women and their fetuses." Margaret Honein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The researchers reported that the study was conducted on 442 women who completed pregnancies in the US, 26 of the babies had at least one birth defect that can be linked to Zika virus, according to Ktep.

Another report released by the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases on Tuesday, shows that the virus can continue with its reproductive processes in the brain even after a baby is born. This could invariably cause brain damage in the future, or be a threat to children.

A third report published in the New England Journal of Medicine states that 46 percent of 125 women infected in Brazil while pregnant had some kind of serious complication, such as miscarriages and birth defects. It is still not clear why the rate of birth defects is much higher in some parts of Brazil than in other countries.

 Honein wrote an editorial accompanying the NEJM report. She said,

"Zika virus infection poses a serious risk to pregnant women and their fetuses. It is critically important pregnant women not travel to areas with active transmission of Zika virus."

Researchers however, cautioned about reaching any conclusions based on these studies. William Muller, a professor of pathology at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine said,

"We still really do not know for sure,"

According to NPR, the women were exposed to the virus while in 12 countries: Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador,Mexico, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Venezuela.

11 percent of the women, who had symptoms or were exposed to the virus in the first trimester, gave birth to babies with birth defects, but there was no reports of birth defects in women who were exposed to the virus in the second and third trimester.

The study used laboratory tests to determine whether the mother and baby had at some point been infected with Zika infection or similar viruses. The test was unable to define which virus, or the time it was contracted. Four percent of the babies had microcephaly, it is an abnormality that causes the babies to have small heads.

It is practically difficult to determine how many women who were exposed to the virus while pregnant still went ahead to have normal pregnancy and babies as up to 80 percent of Zika infections do not manifest symptoms.

Women who deliver children with birth defects should get tested for Zika virus. Other birth defect reported in the study includes spinal cord damage, deafness, eye damage, clubfeet and other nervous system abnormalities.

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