From NYT: “Colombia Reports Major Rise in Birth Defect Amid Zika Crisis”

New York Times

The New York Times

DEC. 10, 2016

Colombia, which suffered a Zika epidemic that peaked in February, has reported four times as many cases of babies born with microcephaly this year as it did in 2015, providing more proof that the Zika virus causes brain damage in infants.

Because births of microcephalic infants peaked five months after the epidemic did, at about nine times the numbers of the previous July, scientists feel sure that the greatest risk is to babies whose mothers were infected during their first trimesters or early in their second.

The numbers were reported in a study released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted jointly by scientists from the C.D.C. and Colombia’s national health institute.

With 105,000 suspected Zika cases, Colombia has had the second-largest Zika epidemic after Brazil. Brazil has had proportionally many more cases of microcephaly, and the reason has remained a mystery, although its population is four times larger than Colombia’s and it experienced a much longer, more intense epidemic in 2014 and 2015, especially in the northeast.

As of Thursday, Brazil had reported 2,211 cases of microcephaly in which Zika infection had been confirmed to the World Health Organization, while Colombia had reported only 60.

W.H.O. reports of confirmed cases have sometimes lagged weeks behind local reports. The study released by the C.D.C. found 476 cases of microcephaly in Colombia between January and mid-November. Of those, only 147 — about 30 percent — had laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection. But many others were not tested, and the virus is not always detectable months after it damages a fetus, so the true numbers may be higher.

About 4 percent of the fetuses tested had evidence of other infections that can cause microcephaly, such as toxoplasmosis, herpes, cytomegalovirus or syphilis. Many other fetuses were not tested or their microcephaly had no clear cause.

Of the total, 432 of the microcephaly cases were in babies born alive, and 44 were in fetuses that were stillborn, miscarried or aborted. One theory — still unproven — is that Colombia had fewer microcephaly cases than expected because many fearful women aborted their pregnancies, legally or illegally. Abortion is much more restricted in Brazil than in Colombia.

The number of confirmed cases of microcephaly is in line with predictions made by health officials after they declared an end to the Zika epidemic in Colombia in July. Early in the year, based on Brazil’s experience, Dr. Fernando Ruiz, the vice minister for public health, estimated that Colombia would have 700 cases of Zika-related microcephaly this year. In August, he changed that estimate to between 100 and 250.

Although Colombia is widely believed to have a better disease-surveillance system than Brazil, it still relies on doctors to voluntarily report birth defects. They may have been underreported in 2015, before microcephaly was in the news.

See the full article here .


There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler,
Rutgers Open Zika

WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

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