CDC Spokesperson: ‘Preliminary Data’ Suggests Low Risk of Microcephaly from Zika in Unborn Children

By Dustin Siggins Published on June 22, 2016

A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) spokesperson told The Stream that a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 15 confirmed that the vast majority of women who have Zika do not deliver babies with the disorder microcephaly.

The study “showed that among a subset of pregnant women with Zika virus disease, a majority (over 90%) of those infected in the third trimester delivered no infants with apparent birth defects, including microcephaly,” said the spokesperson.

“Although these preliminary data from Colombia suggest that Zika virus infection during the third trimester of pregnancy is not linked to birth defects like microcephaly, continued monitoring of the impact of Zika virus upon pregnancy and infant outcomes is ongoing,” continued the spokesperson. “We still don’t know the level of risk from a Zika infection during pregnancy, meaning if a woman is infected, how often her fetus will have problems. However, preliminary data suggest the risk to be about 1-13%” if a woman is infected in the first trimester.

The two studies cited by the spokesperson bolster the growing evidence that women who contract Zika are mostly unlikely to bear children who are diagnosed with the disorder microcephaly. The risk appears to dramatically decrease among those infected in the second and third trimester.

The comments come just days after two pharmaceutical companies announced that they will begin testing an experimental Zika vaccine testing on human test subjects after approval Monday by the Food & Drug Administration.

“As of May 2016, 58 countries and territories reported continuing mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus; the incidences of viral infection and medical conditions caused by the virus are expanding, not contracting,” said Inovio Pharmaceuticals CEO Dr. J. Joseph Kim in a statement on his company’s website. “We plan to dose our first subjects in the next weeks and expect to report phase I interim results later this year.”

Inovio will be conducting the tests with Geneone Life Science. The companies say the first phase of testing will include 40 people. The Associated Press (AP) reports that another vaccine test will be done by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) by the fall.

In addition to prepping for its vaccine test, the NIH announced on Tuesday a partnership with a Brazilian research group to examine up to 10,000 pregnant women in 15 areas “that are experiencing active local transmission” of Zika. The study will begin in Puerto Rico and expand to Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere.

All of the women will be at least 15 years old, and be in their first trimester of pregnancy. The babies will be followed for one year after birth.

“The full scope of the effect of Zika virus in pregnancy has not yet been fully determined,” said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “This large prospective study promises to provide important new data that will help guide the medical and public health responses to the Zika virus epidemic.”

“A mother’s environment may be an important part of the Zika virus puzzle,” said the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Director, Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “We’ve included environmental measures in the study and will also be evaluating nutrition and socio-economic status.”

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