Zika Not the Only Source of Microcephaly

It’s became common knowledge to the healthcare community that the Zika virus was the source of microcephaly, a birth defect that causes baby’s heads to develop much smaller than they should – among other problems. There aren’t any known cures or treatments for it today.

This rare birth defect can be diagnosed during pregnancy with the use of an ultrasound test around the third trimester or shortly after the baby is born. The baby’s head circumference would have to be measured and compared to the general population. After it is diagnosed in a baby, MRI scans are used to provide more insight about the structure of the brain.

Between 2014 and 2016 within South America and the Caribbean, the virus ran rampant while the media only fueled the fear factor.

Recent studies show, however, that it’s not only Zika that causes the birth defect. A review published in The Lancet, suggested that clinicians set their eyes upon pregnant women with these symptoms and managed their treatment to avoid microcephaly.

Delanjathan Devakumar, a Lecturer in Public Health said:

“We think that Zika is very important and it has raised the profile of microcephaly; however, there are many other infectious and noninfectious causes. A lot of research is being focused on Zika, And this is a great opportunity to allow all patients with infectious microcephaly to benefit from research findings.”

The authors of this review found that infection results in microcephaly are still unknown. Thanks to animal studies, they were able to deduce that the virus creates an immune response that stimulates neural stem cell proliferation.

It’s also apparent that the setting in which clinicians are working in are very important factors to consider when diagnosing microcephaly. Communication with parents is essential in regards to how much information should be given, when and in what way.

So much is still left to the unknown and microcephaly remains a closely-monitored disease.


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