Staying ahead of the outbreak: The latest Zika virus resources and research

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As public officials step up their warnings about the spread of Zika—the mosquito-borne virus believed to cause microcephaly and other birth defects in unborn children—science is stepping up its response as well with increased resources and research.

Much of that research centers around the role of medical imaging in better understanding the virus and its effects on pregnant mothers and their children, as well as risks to the general population.

For instance:

  • A new South American  ultrasound study revealed that once inside a pregnant woman’s bloodstream, the Zika virus appears capable of afflicting her developing baby not just with micocephaly, but also with other congenital abnormalities and harsh effects including injury to the central nervous system and death.
  • Brazilian researchers recently teamed up with scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicince to describe certain  CT features of Zika-related microcephaly, including characteristic intracranial calcifications, cerebellar hypoplasia and other developmental neurological conditions associated with Zika virus infection.
  • The New England Journal of Medicine has published  multiple articles related to the central role of imaging in Zika virus research, including the possible association of Zika and central nervous system infections with meningoencephalitis detected via MRI and CT scan; the correlation of neurological disorders such as Guillain–Barré syndrome detected via ultrasound with regional Zika virus infections; and the importance of information sharing and collaboration among all Zika researchers to better understand the virus.
  • To quell the spread of misinformation regarding Zika virus, the American Medical Association recently launched its  Zika Virus Reource Center, which includes links to resources for the public, such as prevention information for pregnant women, maps of infected areas and answers to frequently-asked questions, as well as resources for physicians, including clinical guidance and Zika virus research.