First Likely Microcephalic Babies Born In Colombia

Three Colombian newborns could be the country’s first group of children with Zika virus-linked brain abnormalities — a sign of what’s to come as pregnant Colombian women infected with the virus begin to give birth.

The babies were born with either microcephaly, which is a birth defect characterized by an abnormally small head, or congenital brain abnormalities, according to a news site run by the international science journal Nature. All three children also tested positive for Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that usually produces mild symptoms in adults but is believed to adversely affect fetuses and cause neurological issues in some adults. Zika virus has been spreading through the Americas since 2015.

The Colombian Collaborative Network on Zika, the group of researchers that diagnosed the children, is also investigating several more possible cases of microcephaly with a suspected link to Zika, Nature reported.

Colombians first started testing positive for Zika in October, months after the current outbreak took hold in Brazil. Now an estimated 37,000 Colombians have had the virus, including more than 6,000 pregnant women. This makes Colombia the second-most Zika-affected country after Brazil, which has seen an estimated 498,000 to 1.5 million cases.

Experts predict that by June, Colombia will see a large increase in babies born with microcephaly. As part of the effort to determine if Zika virus causes microcephaly, Colombian officials are watching 2,000 of the country’s pregnant women to see how their pregnancies and births proceed.

The outcomes for the three babies detailed in Nature puts a major dent in a central argument made by conspiracy theorists and doctors who are skeptical about the causal link between Zika and microcephaly. These skeptics have pointed to Colombia — a country that —> Read More