"It's much more than microcephaly", said Dr. Karin Nielsen of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the pregnancy study with colleagues at the Fiocruz Institute in Brazil. Of these women, 72 tested positive for Zika virus, and they were at various stages of pregnancy - anywhere from five to 38 weeks pregnant. The Department will expand mosquito surveillance in the spring, to closely monitor Aedes albopictus, which is the one species of mosquito that can transmit Zika virus that is present in some parts of New York State.
Besides Brazil, C. quinquefasciatus also exists in more temperate climes, including the southern US, where it is known to carry the West Nile virus and can survive winters.
Adverse birth outcomes of infected women have been reported and studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.
In one study, a team of USA researchers identified a probable mechanism for how the Zika virus can cause microcephaly, in which children are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.
"This is exactly the kind of research that we need to demonstrate a causative link and mechanism between the Zika virus and microcephaly", said Alyssa Stephenson-Famy, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Since the World Health Organization designated the virus and its suspected complications in newborns as a public health emergency last month, scientists and officials have been racing to control Zika and halt its explosive spread. But one key missing piece has been information about how it can slow or halt brain development in utero.
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As of date, three Albany County residents have tested positive for the virus, and another seven have been reported state-wide.
Jeremy Farrar, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity and an infectious disease specialist, has also remarked on this study, saying that it represents the most compelling evidence of a causal relationship between Zika and the Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The virus was able to infect up to 90% of neural progenitor cells in a sample leading to nearly a third of cells dying and the growth of the rest being disrupted. Although the results don't definitively prove Zika causes microcephaly, it strengthens the link, said Guo-li Ming, a Johns Hopkins University neurologist and a lead author of the study. Two other babies had normal ultrasounds and indeed, appear healthy. The study's results, originally published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, also fill another void.
Researchers did not take the brain cells from embryos; they created them from stem cells obtained from other sources.
Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.