Ana Maria Bispo, head of the Flavivirus Laboratory of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (IOC/Fiocruz), said that there is still a long way for researchers to acquire enough knowledge of the virus' effects on humans. "What factors might be favoring the virus invasion? (How does it) cross the placenta and infect the fetus? What is the target cell of the virus on the fetus? We need to answer these kind of questions," she added.
According to her, since the link between Zika virus and microcephaly cases has been established, Brazil moved through the stage of total misinformation on the event to about 30% of knowledge. Besides microcephaly, sight impairment has already been proven on babies born to Zika-infected mothers. She said that another question is: why has the virus crossed the placental barrier, while the studies have indicated until now that this did not happen?
The researcher revealed that Fiocruz has been testing mini-brains produced in vitro, infected with the virus to monitor the infection's progress. "We still have to conduct a whole range of studies. There is a new thing every day. Not only on microcephaly. Microcephaly is one of the problems; the most glaring, the one that draws the most attention; but there are several other sequelae in babies," she said.
Bispo was the first researcher to find the Zika virus in the amniotic fluid and prove the link between the disease and microcephaly cases. She warned, however, that not all pregnant women with Zika have babies with birth malformations. "This is another question. Why do some babies have microcephaly and others do not? We are investigating everything," she pointed out.
The researcher defends that the Health Ministry should adopt the mandatory notification for zika cases in Brazil. According to her, by doing this, it will be possible to analyse the registers and the number of infected people, which will also help promote studies in the area. She explained that the study will be conducted at Fiocruz to try to develop a vaccine for a Zika virus isolated by Flavivirus Laboratory of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. "We work in partnership," she reported.
The researcher further declared that it is not possible yet to estimate the date to release the vaccine, but that as the institute already conducts studies for a dengue vaccine, they will be able to use the same platform. Moreover, there are ongoing studies on other Brazilian institutes.
Translated by Amarílis Anchieta