Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 11th 2016 Contents A26
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Infecting mosquitoes with a strain of bacteria
known as Wolbachia significantly reduced their ability
to transmit the Zika virus, Brazilian researchers said
last week, raising hope for this biological method of
blocking transmission of the deadly virus.
Mosquitoes infected with the bacteria have been
released in several countries including Australia, Brazil,
Indonesia and Vietnam as part of strategies to control
dengue, and the new finding shows the method also
works with Zika, a close relative of dengue.
Zika has been linked with the birth defect micro-
cephaly that has been sweeping through South and
Central America and the Caribbean and making its
way north to the United States.
In February the World Health Organization declared
Zika a global health emergency. The connection between
Zika and microcephaly came to light late last year in
Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,100 cases
of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika
infections in the mothers.
The new study, by researchers at Brazil's Oswaldo
Cruz Foundation and published in Cell Host & Microbe,
takes advantage of the naturally occurring strain of
bacteria known as Wolbachia, which live in insect cells
and are found in 60 per cent of common insects. The
method involves inserting the bacteria into mosquito
eggs, which then pass the bacteria along to their off-
"The idea has been to release Aedes mosquitoes
The explosion of cases of birth defects caused by
Zika virus may be the "tip of the iceberg," experts
said last week.
Many cases have probably been missed because
babies looked normal when they were born. But hidden
birth defects are almost certain to turn up as the babies
grow, they told a meeting of pediatricians on May 1
in Baltimore, USA.
"The microcephaly and other birth defects we have
been seeing could be the tip of the iceberg," Dr Sonja
Rasmussen of the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said at the annual meeting of the Pediatric
Safadi described a case he just saw recently. The
baby looked OK when he was born in January, even
though his mother had suffered some of the classic
symptoms of Zika infection at the end of her second
trimester of pregnancy: fever and a rash.
MRI and CT scans done when he was two months
old showed that the baby had brain damage---areas of
hardened brain tissue called calcifications, which happen
when the cells die, and areas of the brain filled with
fluid, a condition called ventriculomegaly.
The baby tested positive for Zika in his blood, urine
and saliva. It's not yet clear what the consequences
will be for the child. Newborns with microcephaly
often act just like other newborns, perhaps a bit fussier.
But the disabilities will appear as the children grow.
They'll have learning deficiencies, vision problems and
hearing problems, and many will also have physical
disabilities. There is no cure.
Rasmussen said researchers have gone back to an
outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013 and 2014 and
estimated that one per cent of pregnant women who
became infected in the first trimester of pregnancy
had children with microcephaly. Safadi said that would
add up to many cases in Brazil, where 2.8 million
children are born every year.
But there is some good news: children are rarely
infected with Zika. Patients have an average age of 42.
Children and teens rarely get infected, and the
researchers don't understand why not. (NBC)
Infected mosquitoes can't
transmit Zika virus, study finds
with Wolbachia over a period of a few
months, so they mate with Aedes mos-
quitoes ... and over time, replace the
mosquito population," said senior author
Luciano Moreira of the Oswaldo Cruz
Foundation in Rio de Janerio, which is
preparing to host the Olympics this
Moreira is part of Eliminate Dengue,
a non-profit that is testing the approach
in 40 locations around the world.
In the Zika study, the team infected
field mosquitoes and Wolbachia-infect-
ed mosquitoes with two strains of Zika
currently circulating in Brazil. After two
weeks, mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia
had fewer particles of the virus in their
bodies and saliva---making them less
able to infect humans with the virus.
Moreira cautioned that the strategy
is not 100 per cent effective and will
not eliminate the virus. (Reuters)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Birth defects may be 'tip
of the iceberg,' experts say
Infecting mosquitoes with a strain of bacteria known as
Wolbachia significantly reduces their ability to transmit
the Zika virus.
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