RESEARCHER OUTLINES MAP OF ZIKA VIRUS IN PONCE

Photo: Dr. Luisa Alvarado – Principal Investigator and POPZE’s director

RESEARCHER OUTLINES MAP OF ZIKA VIRUS IN PONCE

By Sandra Torres Guzmán 

(SOUTHWEST) Primera Hora

Pediatrician researches traces left in infants.

Around 98 infants whose mothers were diagnosed with Zika virus during their pregnancies are being monitored by a scientific program in Ponce that seeks to outline a map about the development of the illness in this population.

The program is the Pediatric Outcome of Prenatal Zika Exposure (POPZE), directed by pediatrician Luisa Alvarado Domenech, who’s been researching for more than a year the traces left by the condition, of which the real effects are still unknown. The study began in May 2017 and is funded by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and a follow up phase with the support of Intellectus Foundation. It also has the collaboration of Puerto Rico’s Department of Health, Ponce Health Sciences University and San Lucas Episcopal Hospital.

“We are recruiting babies that were born between May 2017 and May 2018. However, we’ve also invited families whose babies were born before the beginning of the research. There are also some babies that were born from October 2016 at the San Lucas Hospital in Ponce.” revealed Dr. Alvarado. “The inclusion criteria are that the mothers had, during their pregnancies, one of the two tests made by obstetricians and some of the ones made at our Emergency Room when they arrived with Zika virus symptoms.” the researcher explained. According to Alvarado, although these infants were born at the Señorial City (Ponce), there are families that live outside the south area. “At the moment, we have five babies qualified under the definition of microcephaly, which means they’re under the third percentile. This means it’s a smaller  measurement of the head.  There are no babies showing the whole Zika syndrome we were seeing in Brazil and other Latin American countries”, this was discovered by Alvarado. “If we look at the national numbers, the possibility of having a baby born with microcephaly is about five to six percent. However, with almost 100 babies, we are closer to what really happened.” she added.

According to the pediatrician, other findings in a big part of the sample is that some infants apparently have retina issues. “Another area where I think we may encounter problems is with the eyes. These babies may have retina abnormalities. The important thing is to be able to follow up with them in time to see which of them will have vision problems.” she stated. The specialist pointed out the relevance of keeping up with the patients’ progress, specifically their neurodevelopment. However, Alvarado Domenech highlighted that, in spite of what has been found, it is expected that these children grow normally by receiving early assistance for their health issues.

“This project excites us because we understand it has an impact on the health and future of our kids,” said the Elena Colón Parrilla, economist and executive director of Intellectus Foundation.