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YOUR HEALTH: Understanding Zika

ST. LOUIS – More than 5000 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the United States since 2015 and scientists say there may be a resurgence of cases over the...

ST. LOUIS – More than 5000 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the United States since 2015 and scientists say there may be a resurgence of cases over the next few months.

But since last year's outbreak researchers have learned more about how Zika is transmitted and are finding therapies to stop the virus before it does its damage.

"We still don't know enough about what are all the short-term and long-term effects on the baby," said Indira Mysorekar, an Associate Professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Indira Mysorekar is an expert in fetal infections.  She and her colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis are looking at ways to stop the spread of Zika from mother to child.

Researchers infected pregnant mice with Zika.  During pregnancy the virus can be seen passing through the placenta. Next, researchers injected other mice with antibodies that blocked the virus.

"It was not allowed to cross over into the placenta into the area where the blood flow, nutrient and oxygen exchange is happening, so the babies were fine," explained Dr. Mysorekar.

Professor Mysorekar says what works in mice should also work in people.

"This is going into human trials," said Dr. Mysorekar.   "First round of human trials are starting now with this antibody."

At the same time, physician scientist Kelle Moley is researching the impact of Zika on men.  Dr. Moley examined the reproductive systems of Zika-infected mice.

"By Day 21, we saw no germ cells so basically this would imply that it would lead to infertility, if it has the same effect," Dr. Moley explained.

Dr. Moley says it's a reminder to both men and women in infected areas to take precautions.

There have been very few studies linking Zika virus to infertility in men.

Dr. Moley says there is a CDC study underway in men in Puerto Rico examining a link between Zika, sperm motility, and a decrease in testosterone levels.

According to the National Institute of Health, the first human clinical trial of a potential Zika vaccine is underway at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

MICROCEPHALY: Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. It can usually be detected at birth, but can also be noticed if the head is not growing as it should. Some children will develop normally despite their head size, but many have developmental delays in speech and movement, mental retardation, dwarfism, and difficulties with coordination. It has a number of causes such as malnutrition during pregnancy, chromosomal abnormalities, decreased oxygen to the fetal brain, and the Zika virus.
(Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/microcephaly/basics/symptoms/con-20034823)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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