Saturday, December 10, 2016

Columbian Microcephaly Report and Implications for Zika Virus Infection

Despite having declared the Zika epidemic over back in July, Columbia still finds itself confronting the epidemic’s reverberations. CDC epidemiologist, and Chief of the Birth Defects Branch of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), Margaret Honein, led a team of researchers in evaluating Zika’s impact on Columbia. In a recently released report, the team noted that 476 cases of microcephaly were reported in the period from January 31 to November 12. This represents a near four-fold increase from the 110 cases reported over the same period last year. For the month of July, the team found a nine-fold increase from 2015 to 2016. Data from the report has also shed some light on the risk that the virus presents for pregnant mothers, based on the time of infection.

The group found that Zika virus likely presents the greatest risk for infant microcephaly for infections occurring during the first trimester of pregnancy, since the greatest amount of microcephaly reports came about 24 weeks after the peak of the Zika outbreak. Though the findings have proven useful, there remain significant limitations to fully analyzing the extent of the virus’ impact on the country. Honein’s team stated that the reported numbers of microcephaly came from all cases, not just those with confirmed links to Zika. For instance, some of the reported infant microcephaly cases were tied to herpes simplex virus (15 infants) and cytomegalovirus (4 infants) infection. Furthermore, Columbia’s method of birth defect reporting is passive, meaning that the numbers don’t actually represent all microcephaly cases – just reported ones.

Ahmed Mustafa (’18)

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