Update on Zika for News Blog Readers

A recent review of epidemiological evidence from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta confirms the association of Zika arbovirus infections during pregnancy with microcephaly in the infant, with a risk of about one in 100.[1] It is probable that the risk of neurological effects less serious than microcephaly is also increased. A recent BMJ paper [2] analyses a cohort of microcephalic children born of mothers with Zika virus infection in pregnancy. They did not just measure the size of the head relative to length and weight. All babies underwent CT scan, MRI, or both. They all manifested strikingly similar features on neuro-imaging, and these features are largely distinct from the other known causes of microcephaly, including those associated with infections with other viruses, such as cytomegalovirus. The famous philosopher of science William Whewell, argued that if information of different types all corroborate the same theory, then that is powerful support in its favour.[3] The CLAHRC WM Director thinks a causal role for the virus is pretty much settled – we may assume that the Zika virus is indeed a cause of severe (and perhaps less severe) neurological damage in the foetus.

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Rasmussen SA, Jamieson DJ, Honein MA, Petersen LR. Zika Virus and Birth Defects — Reviewing the Evidence for Causality. N Engl J Med. 2016; 374: 1981-7.
  2. Aragao MFV, van der Linden V, Brainer-Lima AM, et al. Clinical features and neuroimaging (CT and MRI) findings in presumed Zika virus related congenital infection and microcephaly: retrospective case series study. BMJ. 2016; 353: i1901.
  3. Whewell W & Butts RE. William Whewell’s Theory of Scientific Method. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 1968.

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