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Headway made in Zika cause findings

Medical research

New medical research has provided the strongest evidence yet of a direct link between the feared mosquito-spread Zika virus and infant microcephaly.

Proof the virus was linked with foetal brain defects has been lacking, but these findings will help the at least 12 groups looking for a vaccine.

A team of Slovenian doctors made the discovery after the baby and its otherwise-healthy three-month pregnant mother were found to have the virus.

Their ultrasound findings were confirmed at the post-mortem stage.

“After months of research, our final result is that we have confirmed a diagnosis confirming the connection between this virus and irregular brain development. That was not simple or easy. I am really proud of my colleagues from the clinic, and the others who helped,” said Ljubljana University clinical centre’s Natasa Tul Mandic.

No vaccine exists against Zika, but experts say one could be found by the start of next year as the global concern about the virus is spurring research.

Until then, insect eradication is being stepped up in the worst-hit areas.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says the link between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome is “highly probable”.

“In places where there is an increased prevalence of Zika virus, there has also been seen an increased prevalence of Guillain-Barre.

“So the direct causality is still to be demonstrated but the association in time, in location, seems to be clear. So we have a few more weeks to be sure and be able to demonstrate the causality but the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre is highly probable,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation.