Zika Breaking News

Zika breaking news brought to you by Zika News.

Nov 17, 2021 • 1:20 pm CST

Japan-based Takada Vaccines, Inc. has scheduled a poster presentation for November 19, 2021, during the annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene digital meeting.

This presentation, led by Erick Perez-Guzman, Mayuri Sharma, Ralph Braun with Takeda, will discuss how Zika virus-specific antibodies that can be distinguished from antibodies to other flaviviruses (FV), which will improve differential diagnosis and support the development of Zika vaccines in flavivirus-endemic regions''''Zika virus (ZIKV) re-emergence and spread into flavivirus endemic regions have caused serodiagnostic challenges due to antibody cross-reactivity among the FVs.

Currently, there are no viral envelope protein-based assays available to quantitatively measure ZIKV-specific antibody responses in individuals with prior FV exposure.

These presenters describe the development of a ZIKV-specific competitive microsphere-based immunoassay to support ongoing clinical trials of Takeda's purified inactivated ZIKV vaccine (PIZV) candidate.

The assay design allows ZIKV-specific antibodies present in plasma or serum samples to compete with the binding of an anti-ZIKV EDIII monoclonal antibody to a specific epitope on ZIKV virus-like particles coupled to Luminex magnetic microspheres. ZIKV-specific antibody levels in the presence or absence of antibodies to other FVs can then be determined in the samples.

Human and non-human primate (NHP) sample panels exposed to different FVs, including ZIKV, dengue virus (all four serotypes), Yellow Fever virus, Saint Louis Encephalitis virus, West Nile virus, Japanese Encephalitis virus, and Tick-Borne Encephalitis virus, were assessed using this assay.

The assay quantified ZIKV-specific antibodies in all presumptive or confirmed ZIKV or PIZV-immune samples, while all other FV-immune samples were negative in the assay.

Of note, the assay was also able to quantify PIZV-elicited ZIKV-specific antibodies in the presence of cross-reactive antibodies from prior FV vaccination.

In summary, these presenters say our data suggest that the assay can differentiate ZIKV-specific antibodies from antibodies to other FVs elicited by natural infection or vaccination.''

Availability of a ZIKV-specific antibody-based immunoassay will improve differential diagnosis, serosurveillance and support the development and implementation of ZIKV vaccines in FV endemic regions.

Takeda's Zika vaccine candidate (TAK-426; PIZV) is a purified, inactivated, alum-adjuvanted, whole Zika virus vaccine candidate conducting clinical studies.

Nov 8, 2021 • 3:45 pm CST

At least 89 people in Kanpur, India, have tested positive for the Zika virus, reported India.com. As a result, an alert has been issued, and the local authorities have launched a massive vector control drive to curb the spread of infected mosquitoes.

Dr. Nepal Singh, chief medical officer of Kanpur district in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, told Reuters on November 8, 2021, "There has been a surge in cases of the Zika virus."

"The health department has formed several teams to contain the spread."

According to media reports, Health teams had recently collected blood samples of 525 people were sent to the virology lab of the King George's Medical University in Lucknow and the National Institute of Virology in Pune for testing.

The first Zika case in Kanpur was reported on October 23, 2021, when an Indian Air Force warrant officer tested positive for the virus.

Kanpur is located southeast of New Delhi in northern India and has about 2.9 million residents.

As of November 8, the U.S. FDA has not authorized a Zik preventive vaccine. However, several vaccine candidates are currently conducting clinical studies.

Oct 26, 2021 • 2:07 pm CDT

Though the number of Zika virus infections has decreased since 2018, scientists speculate they may be due to herd immunity in some areas.

However, there is still potential for future outbreaks.

Scientists want to understand how the human immune system recognizes the Zika virus to develop preventive vaccines.

Shannon Esswein, a graduate student, and Pamela Bjorkman, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, presented new insights on how the body’s antibodies attach to the Zika virus. These insights were published in PNAS, February 25, 2021.

To study the antibody response to Zika and other flaviviruses, Esswein and Bjorkman looked at several antibodies from the blood of patients from Mexico and Brazil.

To find antibodies that recognize flaviviruses, they used a piece of the outside of the virus, called the envelope domain III protein.

Previous studies have shown the envelope domain III is an essential target of protective antibodies that fight flavivirus infections.

The researchers studied how those antibodies changed over time as they mature and became better able to stick to the Zika virus and how the antibodies cross-react with other flaviviruses, including the four types of dengue viruses.

They found that the Zika antibodies also tightly stick to and defend against dengue type 1 and weakly stick to West Nile and dengue types 2 and 4.

“The weak cross-reactivity of these antibodies doesn’t seem to defend against those flaviviruses, but also doesn’t induce ADE,” Esswein said, suggesting envelope domain III may be useful to make a safe vaccine.

They also determined structures showing how two antibodies recognize Zika and West Nile envelope domain III.

Together, the team’s experiments show how the body mounts “a potent immune response to Zika virus,” says Esswein.

Their insights into the antibodies involved in this immune response will help inform vaccine design strategy.

As of October 26, 2021, the U.S. FDA had not approved a Zika vaccine.

Oct 18, 2021 • 1:17 pm CDT

The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District in Califor announced on October 12, 2021, that the invasive mosquito Aedes aegypti had been found within the City of Sacramento.

Invasive mosquitoes are a public health threat because they can transmit debilitating diseases, including Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.

The detection occurred when a single female mosquito was caught by a trap set near Camelia Park in south Sacramento as part of the District’s ongoing surveillance program.  

The following day, traps were set in the vicinity, leading to additional findings of invasive mosquitoes. 

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have also been detected in Orangevale, Elk Grove, Arden-Arcade in Sacramento County, and the City of Winters in Yolo County. 

“Finding these mosquitoes in a completely new area likely means they could be established anywhere. Therefore, we will continue to work diligently looking for and identifying locations where these mosquitoes could be breeding,” stated Gary Goodman, District Manager. 

Aedes aegypti are not native to California; however, they are now permanently established in many areas throughout the State.

“We are at the peak of the season for detecting invasive mosquitoes when they are very active,” added Goodman.

Invasive mosquitoes were first discovered within District boundaries in 2019 in Citrus Heights.

In response to the new detection site, the District will enhance surveillance efforts by setting up additional traps in surrounding neighborhoods to determine the scope of the infestation.

In southern California, Aedes mosquitoes have been found in Los Angeles County.

But have not found any mosquitoes infected with the Zika virus.

To date, all cases of Zika in Los Angeles County acquired their infection when traveling outside of California. Information on the number of Zika cases detected in Los Angeles County is available at this link.

Oct 14, 2021 • 6:15 pm CDT

The Zika virus disease is a nationally notifiable condition in the USA. Using standard case definitions, cases are reported to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by state, territorial, and local health departments.

Since antibodies against Zika can persist for years after infection, serology cannot distinguish between a recent or past Zika infection. 

As of October 5, 2021, the CDC confirmed there had been only one Zika virus disease case related to an international traveler in the USA.

In 2021, there have been no confirmed Zika virus disease cases reported from U.S. territories. Additionally, many suspect Zika cases from the territories have been tested using molecular testing, and none have been positive.

However, twenty-two Zika cases were acquired through local mosquito-borne transmission in the U.S. Territories in the past.

In 2020, there were active Zika virus transmissions reported in Puerto Rico.

These presumed locally acquired cases of Zika in the U.S. territories were diagnosed using serologic testing, which detects antibodies against Zika.

Until there is a U.S. FDA-approved Zika vaccine, the best way to prevent a Zika infection is by avoiding mosquito bites, says the CDC.

Oct 14, 2021 • 3:50 pm CDT

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed today a Zika virus (ZIKV) infection was laboratory-confirmed in a resident of Kerala state, located in southwest India, in early July 2021.

This represents the first Zika virus disease case ever reported from Kerala.

The patient was a 24-year-old pregnant woman in her third trimester of pregnancy resident in Trivandrum district.

On June 28, 2021, she was admitted to a private hospital with arbovirus like symptoms of fever, headache, and general rash.

The woman delivered her child on July 7, 2021, and was reportedly in good health, and there were no apparent birth defects in the newborn.

So far, no cases of microcephaly and/or Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been linked with this outbreak.

In the three months before delivery, she had resided in the Trivandrum district, not having traveled during that period. Among close contacts, her mother reported having fever and similar symptoms one week before ZIKV confirmation in her daughter.

On July 8, 2021, the State of Kerala issued guidelines on enhanced surveillance for ZIKV disease and sent guidance to all 14 districts.

Information, Education, and Communication activities about ZIKV disease have been strengthened immediately throughout the State. In addition, sensitization activities across the State for both health care workers and the general public are ongoing.

And ultrasound scanning centers have been directed to report incidences of microcephaly during regular antenatal scans to the Reproductive and Child Health Officer.

In the Trivandrum district, which has been declared a cluster of ZIKV disease cases, intensified vector control activities have been conducted for a week, including; extensive fogging, spraying, larvicides, source reduction, and sanitization of the surrounding areas.

Additionally, field teams visited each household to conduct active case findings, ensure elimination of mosquito breeding sites, and sensitize the community to preventive mosquito control measures and identification of ZIKV disease symptoms to seek timely medical assistance.

The WHO was requested to support the country’s updates on standard operating procedures and guidelines for syndromic and case-based surveillance; laboratory surveillance; vector surveillance; enhanced surveillance among antenatal women; microcephaly surveillance; surveillance of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) and GBS.

In India, previous ZIKV disease cases/infections have been detected in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan states in 2018 (South-East Asian lineage), but no ZIKV-associated microcephaly has been reported.

Although this event is not unexpected, given the wide distribution of the primary mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, and competent vector, Aedes albopictus, in Kerala and Maharashtra states, this is unusual as it is the first time that ZIKV disease cases have been confirmed in these states.

The primary vector Aedes aegypti, and competent vector Aedes albopictus, are established in the area, often in high densities. The ecological conditions are favorable for ZIKV transmission and potential endemicity.

For regions with active transmission of ZIKV, all persons with suspected ZIKV infection and their sexual partners (particularly pregnant women) should receive information about the risks of sexual transmission of ZIKV.

And for regions with no active transmission of ZIKV, WHO recommends practicing safer sex or abstinence for six months for men and two months for women who are returning from areas of active ZIKV transmission to prevent infection of their sex partners.

In addition, sexual partners of pregnant women living in or returning from areas where local transmission of ZIKV occurs should practice safer sex or abstain from sexual activity throughout pregnancy.

Jul 10, 2021 • 6:57 am CDT

Data from nine cities in Mexico confirms that identifying dengue fever “hot spots” can provide a predictive map for future outbreaks of Zika and chikungunya. All three of these viral diseases are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

This study's results found a 62% overlap of hot spots for dengue and Zika and a 53% overlap for cases of dengue and chikungunya.

The journal Lancet Planetary Health published the research on July 7, 2021. This study provides a risk-stratification method to more effectively guide the control of diseases spread by Aedes aegypti.

The work was funded by USAID, the U.S. CDC, the Canadian Institute of Public Health, the state of Yucatan, the National Institutes of Health, and Emory University.

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Jul 10, 2021 • 6:42 am CDT

India's Kerala state Health Minister Veena George confirmed on July 10, 2021, that there are currently 14 cases of Zika virus in the state. "Our dept is on high alert and monitoring the situation closely," posted Asian News International on Twitter.

A 24-year-old pregnant woman was found to be infected with the mosquito-borne disease and was undergoing treatment at a hospital in Thiruvananthapuram city.

According to the U.S. CDC, pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. This is because they can transmit the infection to their newborns, resulting in life-altering conditions such as microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with a smaller head due to abnormalities in brain development. Adults can also get Guillain-Barre syndrome.

As of June 29, 2021, the CDC confirmed 12 Zika cases acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission in Puerto Rica during 2021.

Several Zika vaccine candidates are in various stages of a clinical study, but the U.S. FDA has not Apporved any Zika vaccines.

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May 24, 2021 • 2:39 pm CDT

A recent study published by The Lancet found that since 2015, the emergence of epidemic Zika virus transmission has been linked to unparalleled reports of serious neurological disorders and devastating congenital disabilities such as microcephaly and other congenital malformations.

Despite low transmission rates in the past 3 years, the emergence of new Zika outbreaks remains a looming threat.

Of particular concern to health authorities worldwide is the possibility of multiple flavivirus outbreaks, as Zika became endemic in the same regions as dengue viruses.

The great paradox in dengue infections is a well-known example: one previous dengue exposure does not protect subsequent infection by a different serotype. But instead, it increases the risk for the development of severe dengue disease.

This understanding has engendered justified caution and the development of tetravalent dengue vaccines.

As viable Zika and dengue vaccines are made, it becomes crucial to understand how Zika and dengue immune interactions will affect subsequent flavivirus outbreaks and the use of Zika and dengue vaccines, concluded these researchers on May 18, 2021.

May 19, 2021 • 2:09 pm CDT

More and more people are getting involved in the surveillance of invasive mosquito species, not just professionals with formal training in entomology. There are many taxonomic keys available for identifying mosquitoes of medical and veterinary importance.

A new version of MosKeyTool, the interactive identification key for identifying mosquitoes, is available. This innovative identification tool was developed by the medical entomology working group (WP3) of MediLabSecure in 2017.

This novel interactive key includes 132 mosquito species in 70 countries (Euro-Mediterranean, Black Sea, and Western Palaearctic Regions) and can be easily installed on your computer.

The MosKeyTool targets are two stages: adult female and 4th stage larva.

The reference area of MosKeyTool is the western Palearctic biogeographic region, including Europe, Atlantic, and Mediterranean Islands, Northern Africa, South Caucasus, and part of the Middle East. Most of the time, the countries are used as a geographical unit. However, the main islands or isolated archipelago are also used as a geographic unit.

MosKeyTool can be used as supporting material for self-learning and teaching the morphology, taxonomy, and systematics of mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae).

Additionally, maps published by the European CDC as of March 31, 2021, show the current distribution of invasive mosquito species at the ‘regional’ administrative unit level.

Separate maps for the distribution of each of the following exotic mosquito species are currently available:  Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, Aedes japonicus, Aedes atropalpus, and Aedes koreicus.

The U.S. CDC publishes various diseases caused by various mosquitoes, such as Zika, Yellow Fever, Chikungunya, and West Nile.

May 14, 2021 • 10:36 am CDT

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urges early detection of congenital disabilities and continuous support and care to newborns and their families. In Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 1 in 5 deaths during the first 28 days of life are due to congenital disabilities.

The anomalies, which can be structural or functional, occur during gestation. The most common and serious are congenital heart defects, neural tube defects, and chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. 

In 2016, Congenital Zika Syndrome was added to the list of congenital defects.

Zika can cause microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly, says the U.S. CDC.

"Congenital defects are today one of the main causes of death of newborns in the region. However, they are mostly preventable," said Dr. Pablo Duran, regional advisor for PAHO's Latin American Center for Perinatology/Women’s Health and Reproductive Health (CLAP).

"In order not to leave any child behind, it is essential to have timely and quality information on these anomalies in all countries," he said in a press statement.

The recent publication, “Present and Future of Birth Defects Surveillance in the Americas,” produced by PAHO and the World Bank with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), indicates that it is fundamental for countries to have a birth defects surveillance system.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela have a birth defects surveillance system. 

PAHO has been working for years to raise awareness of the problem and implement surveillance actions in the health and government sectors. However, there is still a long way to go. 

PAHO's CLAP is collaborating with creating a regional registry of congenital defects using reports from the countries' surveillance systems.

"Preventing children from dying and ensuring that they thrive is our priority,” said Dr. Duran. “Birth defects account for a significant proportion of neonatal deaths in the region, and we must do more to prevent them." 

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May 14, 2021 • 9:56 am CDT

Previously, the U.S. FDA requires blood establishments to test blood donations for new or emerging infectious agents that may affect blood product safety if certain conditions are outlined in FDA regulations.

Specifically, if a transfusion-transmitted infection “may have sufficient incidence and/or prevalence to affect the potential donor population” and meets certain other criteria described in FDA’s regulations, then FDA may determine the transfusion-transmitted infection is a “relevant transfusion-transmitted infection” (RTTI).

Effective on May 13, 2021, the FDA has determined Zika virus (ZIKV) is no longer an RTTI under FDA’s regulations.

As discussed further below, the available evidence demonstrates that ZIKV no longer has sufficient incidence and/or prevalence to affect the potential donor population.  Accordingly, FDA withdrew the guidance titled, “Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Zika Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Components,” dated July 2018. 

Because ZIKV is no longer an RTTI, blood establishments may discontinue testing for ZIKV. 

Licensed blood establishments that discontinue testing blood donations for ZIKV must report this change to FDA in the annual report under 21 CFR 601.12(d), noting the date testing was discontinued. Corresponding changes to the circular of information must also be reported in the annual report under 21 CFR 601.12(d).

As of April 1, 2021, the U.S. CDC reported zero (0) cases of Zika in the USA during 2021. However, Puerto Rico has confirmed seven (7) locally transmitted Zika cases in 2021.

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May 11, 2021 • 4:21 pm CDT

The biotechnology company Oxitec plans to release genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, saying its technology will combat dengue fever, a potentially life-threatening disease mainly transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 41 travel-related cases in Florida during 2020, compared with 71 cases transmitted locally by mosquitoes.

As of May 2021, eight dengue cases and zero Zika virus cases were reported in the USA.

Michael Bonsall, a mathematical biologist at the University of Oxford, is not affiliated with Oxitec, but has collaborated with the company in the past and worked with the World Health Organization to produce a GM mosquito-testing framework, wrote an NCSU article published on April 12, 2021.

Bonsall and other scientists think a combination of approaches is essential to reducing the burden of diseases — and that, maybe, newer ideas like GM mosquitoes should be added to the mix.

Oxitec’s OX5034 mosquitoes are the first GM mosquitoes approved for release in the USA.

Oxitec’s mosquitoes, for instance, are genetically altered to pass what the company calls “self-limiting” genes to their offspring. When released GM males breed with wild female mosquitoes, the resulting generation does not survive into adulthood, reducing the overall population.

Oxitec has been proposing to experimentally release GM mosquitos in the Keys since 2011. Critics say they are concerned about the possible effects GM mosquitoes could have on human health and the environment.

The company has already conducted a trial with the OX5034 mosquitoes in Brazil and released more than a billion of a previous version, called OX513A.

At Oxitec’s laboratory in the U.K., the company genetically engineers the mosquitoes, giving the insects the “self-limiting” gene that makes the females dependent on the antibiotic tetracycline. Without the drug, they will die.

Eggs from these genetically altered mosquitoes —will be shipped to the Keys, which will hatch both male and female insects 

Mosquitoes require water to mature from an egg to an adult; when Oxitec’s team adds water to the boxes the mosquitoes will be deployed in, both GM males and GM females will hatch. With no tetracycline present in the box, the GM females are expected to die in the early larval stages.

The male mosquitoes will survive and carry the gene. When they leave the boxes, the insects will, hypothetically, fly away to mate with wild females to pass the gene to the next wild generation, according to Nathan Rose, head of regulatory affairs at Oxitec.

Skeptics of Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes include local residents, physicians, scientists, and environmental activists. Many of these opponents say they aren’t anti-GMO, but disagree with how the approval process has been handled.

One group has even kept a running list of what it sees as Oxitec’s wrongdoings since it first began experimental releases. The list includes Oxitec’s lack of disease monitoring in the countries where it has released mosquitoes; the unknown price of its technology; and complaints that the company has overstated the success of some of it its trials.

Oxitec has accomplished 100% of the UK government’s “COVID-19 Secure” requirements but has adopted further policies and programs above and beyond government guidance to keep our people safe.

Apr 8, 2021 • 2:39 pm CDT

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas Medical Branch, an expert team of task force members worldwide, and the World Health Organization have developed a draft Zika virus (ZIKV) Research and Development Roadmap. 

The roadmap is a key component of the WHO’s R&D Blueprint, a global strategy and preparedness plan that allows the activation of R&D activities in advance and during epidemics.

The purpose of the roadmap is to accelerate the development and implementation of effective medical countermeasures for ZIKV to reduce morbidity, mortality, and transmission.

The roadmap identifies the vision, strategic goals, and aligned milestones to develop effective diagnostics, therapeutic agents, and vaccines for ZIKV.

Submit your comments to the team on the draft roadmap using this online form

Mar 18, 2021 • 11:55 am CDT

A previous study published by PNAS stated 'recent epidemics demonstrate the global threat of Zika virus, a flavivirus transmitted by mosquitoes. There are concerns for designing a safe vaccine for the Zika virus because antibodies (Abs) elicited against Zika may also bind flaviviruses that share a similar envelope protein.

If Abs elicited by a Zika vaccine bind but do not effectively neutralize other flaviviruses, they may enhance virus entry into cells through the process of Ab-dependent enhancement of infection, potentially leading to more severe disease.

By directly comparing how mature Zika-neutralizing Abs and their germline precursors bind different flaviviruses, these researchers provide insights into the Ab maturation process and the molecular interactions important for strong, neutralizing binding to Zika versus weak, cross-reactive binding to other flaviviruses.

To better understand the neutralizing Ab response and risk of Ab-dependent enhancement, further information on germline Ab binding to ZIKV and the maturation process that gives rise to potently neutralizing Abs is needed.

This study used binding and structural studies to compare mature and inferred-germline Ab binding to envelope protein domain III of ZIKV and other flaviviruses. It shows that the light-chain variable domain's affinity maturation is important for strong binding of the recurrent VH3-23/VK1-5 neutralizing Abs to ZIKV envelope protein domain III and identify interacting residues that contribute to weak, cross-reactive binding to West Nile virus.

These findings provide insight into the affinity maturation process and potential cross-reactivity of VH3-23/VK1-5 neutralizing Abs, informing precautions for protein-based vaccines designed to elicit germline versions of neutralizing Abs.