icddr,b is testing a collection of blood samples for evidence of past infection with Zika virus – work that could help to control any future Zika outbreak in Bangladesh.
Although the current Zika virus outbreak has not yet reached Bangladesh, the virus causes a generally mild illness and it may have circulated undetected in the past.
A team led by Dr Emily Gurley, director of icddr,b’s emerging infections programme, is therefore examining blood samples originally collected for research into dengue and chikungunya – viruses that, like Zika virus, are transmitted by “Aedes aegypti” mosquitoes. The presence of antibodies to Zika virus in a blood sample would indicate that its donor had previously been infected with the virus.
This analysis could help to identify areas and populations most at risk of Zika should the virus be detected in Bangladesh – information that will be invaluable in targeting future surveillance efforts.
Zika generally causes a relatively mild illness. However, pregnant women may be at particular risk, as Zika infection is associated with microcephaly, a condition associated with neurological impairment and deformed heads among infants.
In the wake of the mosquito-borne virus becoming an international public health emergency, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the South-East Asia Region countries, including Bangladesh, to strengthen surveillance and take preventive measures.
The government of Bangladesh has made preparations to restrict entry of Zika virus by deploying surveillance teams and equipment at all airports, land ports and sea ports.