NEJM highlights role of imaging in ongoing Zika virus research

As concerns continue to mount over the potential spread of Zika to new regions and increased populations, those within science and healthcare are scrambling to learn as much as possible about the virus and its impact on human health.

Imaging has a large part to play in the investigation, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, which added to a recently published ultrasound study on the effects of the virus on developing fetuses beyond microcephaly, including congenital abnormalities and death, with multiple articles further highlight the role of imaging in Zika research.

case study submitted by Guillaume Carteaux, MD, PhD, of the Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Paris in Créteil, France, and colleagues describes the possible association of Zika and central nervous system infections with meningoencephalitis detected via MRI and CT scan in a patient who had recently returned from a cruise near infected areas. “Clinicians should be aware that [the Zika virus] may be associated with meningoencephalitis,” they wrote.

The Journal also published a perspective piece on the correlation of neurological disorders such as Guillain–Barré syndrome detected via ultrasound with regional Zika virus infections warned of the risks of inaction from a lack of direct evidence.

“Even with limited evidence linking Zika virus to neurologic disorders, the severe potential risks demand decisive, immediate action to protect public health,” wrote lead author Nathalie Broutet, MD, of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and her colleagues. “Populations must be informed of the potential current and future risks of neurologic disorders, wherever the virus is being or could be locally transmitted and in other regions inhabited by the mosquito vectors.”

Finally, in a perspective piece titled “Partnerships, Not Parachutists, for Zika Research,” David Heymann, MD, of the Chatham House research institute in London, and his co-authors laid out the case for collaboration among all Zika researchers and the importance of sharing resources and information.

“To answer these research questions effectively and maximize their contribution to enhancing health security, we believe it is critical that research be conducted collaboratively,” they wrote. “We believe the global health community should develop and agree on a framework of principles for sharing data and biologic samples during any such public health emergency.”