The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on April 13th, that the Zika virus does indeed cause birth defects, including microcephaly; a condition where babies are born with abnormally small heads.
Prior to the CDC study, the organization had stated that more information was needed before they linked the microcephaly condition, and other birth defects, to the virus. While at that point, the evidence was pointing to this, more research was needed. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine (online), the research was gathered by two differing sets of standards to determine what the root causes of these birth defect could be.
Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, lead author, stated the team began reviewing criteria a month prior to see which had been met, and which hadn’t. Using a calculated and systematic format, there was no other explanation as it related to the increase in birth defects among babies whose mothers had Zika while pregnant with them.
CNN reported recently that WHO stated Zika was the cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome, as well as microcephaly. At this point, the CDC noted they were not ready to link Zika to the Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Still, despite the study answering many questions, Rasmussen warns there are still quite a few questions that have not been answered, and still some unknowns.
One of them being, not all mothers infected with Zika while pregnant had babies with birth defects; therefore, researchers are unaware of the amount of risk involved when it comes to being infected while pregnant. Also, another query was whether the stage of pregnancy at the time of infection played a role in birth defects and Zika.
Other unknowns include all the health issues associated from Zika. Cases of birth defects and microcephaly seem to be more severe when Zika is involved, versus non-Zika-related cases; including smaller heads then predicted when it came to Zika cases, and a disorder that accompanied these birth defects known as fetal brain disruption sequence, which results in destructive effects on the brain.
Rasmussen hopes this study will raise preventative awareness, as well as create more of a focus on research around the Zika illness.