Zika Virus: Some Good News

Infants from Colombian women infected with Zika virus in late pregnancy did not show microcephaly.


With wave after wave of alarming news about the Zika virus in the news recently, it's nice to hear something positive.

A joint study on babies born in Colombia to women infected with Zika virus in the last three months of pregnancy, found no obvious birth defects.

Zika is a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms. It rarely causes problems for adults and many people don't even know they have been infected.

However, if a pregnant woman becomes infected with Zika in the first three months, her child is at risk for birth defects. One of the most obvious is microcephaly, a condition in which the child's head and brain don't develop properly and are undersized.

Brazil has confirmed more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly in babies whose mothers were exposed to Zika during pregnancy.

Although the bulk of the cases have been reported in Latin and Central America, Zika virus has been reported in the southern states of the US and is expected to spread.

"It's somewhat reassuring that it looks like third-trimester infections aren't posing a major risk of that very serious outcome," co-author Margaret Honein, PhD, MPH, said in a press release.

Dr. Honein is an epidemiologist and chief of the birth defects branch at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Colombian study included data on 65,726 Zika cases reported between Aug. 9, 2015 and April 2, 2016. Of those the data included, 1,850 pregnant women knew when they were infected with Zika.

Ninety percent of the 600 women infected during the last three months of pregnancy have delivered their babies. None of the babies were born with microcephaly or other obvious birth defects.

Among women infected in the first or second trimester, babies have been born with obvious birth defects, including microcephaly.

Scientists will continue to watch all the babies for signs of less obvious problems like developmental delays, hearing loss or vision problems.

The study was published online in the June issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Funding for the study was provided by the Colombian Instituto Nacional de Salud and the CDC.

Information on conflict of interest was not available.