14/11/2017 - The Horizon 2020 call by the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation has funded the ZIKAlliance project to better characterise the clinical and fundamental aspects of infections by Zika virus (ZIKV). The ongoing American ZIKV outbreak involves millions of cases and has a major impact on maternal and child health.

A study published today in mBio demonstrates rapid spread of ZIKV in Salvador, a metropolis in northeastern Brazil representing one of the most affected areas during the American ZIKV outbreak, and infection rates exceeding 60%. Knowledge of infection rates is crucial to project future epidemic patterns and determine the absolute risk of microcephaly upon maternal ZIKV infection during pregnancy.

According to Jan Felix Drexler, the corresponding author, three highly significant findings originate from the study: “First, the high burden of Zika virus infection in a northeastern Brazilian metropolis questions the fate of the outbreak due to population protective immunity; second, Zika virus infection predominantly affects geographic areas with low socioeconomic status, demonstrating a clear link between poverty and Zika virus infection; and finally, we provide additional evidence for the link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly.”

The researchers investigated specimens sampled before, during, and after the current ZIKV outbreak to reconstruct the temporal spread of ZIKV in the city of Salvador. They determined the infection rate of ZIKV in different subpopulations, explored its etiologic role in congenital disease, and used a mathematical modeling approach to project the trajectory of the ZIKV epidemic. Finally, they made use of a geographic information system-based approach to identify location-specific differences of ZIKV exposure and explore their associations with low socioeconomic status. Importantly, this study provides the first arboviral serosurvey after the introduction of ZIKV into the Americas.

The results produced in the article will enable stakeholders to identify target populations for vaccination and for trials on vaccine efficacy; they will also allow refocusing of research efforts and intervention strategies.

This work is the result of a strong international collaboration, and it has been supported by the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF) through the ZIKApath project, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under ZIKAlliance Grant Agreement no. 734548.

 

For information about the scientific outputs of the paper, please contact Jan Felix Drexler at felix.drexler@charite.de. For more information about ZIKAlliance or ZIKAlliance’s activities, please contact Xavier de Lamballerie (Scientific Coordinator) at xavier.de-lamballerie@univ-amu.fr or phone: +33 491324420; or Flavia Mariani (Project Manager) at flavia.mariani@zikalliance.eu or phone: +33 491324412. 

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