Abstract Science: Apr. 11-15
Zika link confirmed, a treatment for ailing fetuses and yellow fever fears return. This week in Abstract Science.
(New York Times, 4/13/2016, Pam Belluck & Don McNeil)
Using a variety of established data sources, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that there was now enough evidence to show that Zika virus could cause microcephaly in children born to infected mothers. The announcement should settle months of debate about the connection between the mosquito-borne virus and a birth defect characterized by unusually small heads and brain damage. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the CDC director, said there is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly. "Never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in a devastating malformation," he said.
(Science, 4/14/2016, Jennifer Couzin-Frankel)
A pediatrician at the University of Cologne in Germany is preparing for the first clinical trial of a stem cell treatment for afflicted fetuses, which aims to give them a healthier start to life than he had himself. Oliver Semler, who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, a debilitating genetic disease in which brittle bones break easily and often, was inspired in part by his own situation to pursue this study. The trial, still being planned, is one of a handful being designed in Europe and the United States for pregnant women and their fetuses.
(Nature, 4/14/2016, Declan Butler)
With the memories of Ebola still fresh, and Zika spreading through congested cities in the Americas, comes another threat: the emergence of yellow fever. With the largest outbreak in three decades continuing to spread across Angola, public health experts warn that the world is ill-prepared to combat an urban epidemic, which could overwhelm vaccine supplies. Aedes aegypti—the mosquito that spreads yellow fever—had been wiped from large swathes of the globe; vaccination programmes also helped to confine the virus to the jungle. But now, as a result of the scaling-back of control efforts, Aedes mosquitoes have re-emerged in densely populated tropical and subtropical cities where many people are unvaccinated—and the Angolan situation has renewed fears that the virus might be poised to break out from the jungle.
—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery