The National Institutes of Health seeks applications for research on the Zika virus in reproduction, pregnancy, and the developing fetus and announced priorities for that research in a statement issued on Feb. 5.
“One of the highest priorities is to establish conclusively what role, if any, Zika virus has played in the marked increase in suspected microcephaly cases,” NIH officials said, noting that over 4,000 case of microcephaly have been reported in newborns in Brazil since October 2015. “It is possible that these microcephaly cases could have another cause, or that a contributing factor in addition to Zika virus – another virus, for example – could be leading to the condition.”Learning more about sexual transmission of the virus is also a priority. NIH is soliciting studies to determine if the virus is present in semen or vaginal secretions. Other studies “of interest” include whether infection with the virus – currently circulating in about 30 countries and territories – affects long-term fertility in both men and women and increases risk in subsequent pregnancies.
Current research can be modified, the statement points out, and may include modifying ongoing studies of pregnant women and infants to check tissue samples for the virus and evaluate the effects of exposure.
The full statement is available on the NIH website.