Research, Policy & Global Development

ISGlobal Gets Involved in the Zika Response

Researchers at the institution participate in working groups on Zika in pregnant women and disease diagnosis


 As was the case when the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was declared two years ago, a multidisciplinary team of specialists as ISGlobal is working on the response to the Zika epidemic that was declared on February 1st a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO. The work group is monitoring the global and local epidemiological situation, and has participated in several actions aimed at the management of possible local cases and  knowledge generation on the virus.  

Thus, ISGlobal, represented by the researcher Azucena Bardaji, participated the drafting of the guidelines for the handling of Zika virus cases in obstetrics and pediatrics that the Catalan government published on February 22. The protocol recommends the follow-up of all pregnant women that have been exposed to the virus (i.e. that have travelled to a country with active viral transmission or whose sexual partners have travelled to such countries and developed symptoms of the disease up to one month before the pregnancy).   

Dr. Jordi Vila, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Initiative at ISGlobal and Head of the microbiology laboratory at the Hospital Clinic, has participated in the working group on Zika virus diagnosis. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Mikel Martinez and his team, the laboratory already offers molecular diagnosis to detect the virus in the first 5-7 days of infection, and is setting up the serology test that allows confirmation of previous infections through the presence of antiviral antibodies in the patient’s blood.   

In addition, Dr. Clara Menéndez, director of the Maternal, Child and Reproductive Health Initiative at ISGlobal, is a consultant for the WHO Program on Reproductive Health, an issue that has become a priority in an epidemic whose major impact is on pregnant women.   

Regarding mid- and long-term actions, a number of researchers at ISGlobal from diverse areas that go from mosquito biology to maternal health, pathology and microbiology, are joining efforts to identify and address some of the main research gaps that require urgent investigation, such as the capacity of the Aedes albopictus vector to transmit the virus, the real risk of transmission in Catalonia, the development of rapid diagnostic tests, and the persistence of virus in bodily fluids.  

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