Scientists Assess Zika Risk to Pregnant Women
A woman infected in 1st trimester has 1 in 100 chance of delivering baby with microcephaly, data suggests
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, March 15, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say there's more evidence supporting a link between the Zika virus and a serious birth defect.
Researchers report that one in every 100 pregnant women infected with the virus during the first trimester will give birth to a baby with microcephaly -- an abnormally small head and the potential for neurological issues.
The new risk analysis did have one important caveat, however.
"The findings are from the 2013-14 outbreak [of Zika] in French Polynesia, and it remains to be seen whether our findings apply to other countries in the same way," study co-author Dr. Simon Cauchemez said in a news release from The Lancet. The findings were published in the journal on March 15.
The analysis was based on data from an outbreak of Zika infections in French Polynesia, a group of islands in the South Pacific. Cauchemez and colleagues said over 31,000 cases of infection were reported during the 2013-2014 outbreak, and eight cases of microcephaly were confirmed.
"Data from French Polynesia are particularly important since the outbreak is already over," said study co-author Arnaud Fontanet, a colleague of Cauchemez at the Institut Pasteur in France.
"This provides us with a small -- yet much more complete -- dataset than data gathered from an ongoing outbreak," Fontanet added.
The researchers believe that the findings strengthen the notion that maternal infection during the first trimester of pregnancy may be especially linked to microcephaly in babies.
Dr. Richard Temes directs neurocritical care at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. He called the emergence of the Zika-microcephaly link "a global public health dilemma."
"Although the risk of transmission is low in comparison to other viral infections, such as congenital rubella [German measles], the authors rightly conclude that the risk to the population is much greater given the higher incidence of Zika virus during outbreaks," Temes said.
In other related news, U.S. health officials on Friday gave tentative approval to a field test in the Florida Keys of mosquitoes genetically tweaked to help curb the spread of the Zika virus.