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Zika's silent spread calls for urgent need to strengthen virus surveillance: ICMR study

Calling for a continuous and enhanced surveillance for Zika virus, the study emphasises the need to develop a safe and effective vaccine which could be administered to pregnant women

June 24, 2022 / 01:43 PM IST
Zika virus is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti. (Representative image)

Zika virus is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti. (Representative image)

Emphasising the pressing need for an enhanced surveillance of Zika virus cases in India, an Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) study has shown that the infection has silently spread to almost all parts of the country.

The ICMR scientists conducted a retrospective screening of dengue and chikungunya negative clinical samples which were stored in labs to understand the extent of the spread of Zika in India.

The scientists who conducted the study revealed the virus was in circulation in Delhi, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Telangana, in addition to Kerala, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh in 2021.

Dr Pragya Yadav, top scientist at the ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV), said that the vector control method (mosquito control method) is an important step that should be employed rigorously by state governments.

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“The vector control method in the country took some hit due to COVID management and that is why you see the rise in transmission resulting in increased dengue and chikungunya cases in the country,” Yadav, who is also the lead author of the study, said.

The retrospective analysis undertaken by the study shows the spread of Zika to newer states and cities in India such as Delhi, Jharkhand, Punjab, Telangana, Jodhpur, and Aligarh.

The test results included in the study from different virus research and diagnostic laboratories shows 67 people tested positive for Zika, while 131 were found to be positive for dengue and chikungunya out of 1475 screened cases.

“All Zika cases were symptomatic with fever (84%) and rash (78%) as major presenting symptoms. Of them, four patients had respiratory distress, one presented with seizures, and one with suspected microcephaly at birth,” the study said.

The study has also called for a continuous and enhanced surveillance for Zika along with Dengue and Chikangunya.

It further calls for the development of a safe and effective vaccine, which could be administered to pregnant women.

The research paper lays emphasis on the gene sequences retrieved in this study, saying most of matched sequences are of the 2018 Rajasthan outbreak, indicating the circulation of the Asian lineage of Zika virus in India.

The scientists have conducted this study on clinical samples of 1475 patients screened for dengue from 13 states and a union territory between May to October 2021.

The study has been conducted on clinical samples of 1475 patients were screened and re-tested for Dengue from 13 states and a union territory between May to October 2021.

The ICMR study has also called for development of quick and reliable tests as well as validating the utility of simple blood-based tests for Zika virus which will help in augmenting the diagnostic capabilities.

Also read: How India’s routine immunisation bounced back from disruptions of COVID pandemic

“With the massive upscaling of the COVID-19 RT-PCR testing laboratories in India, this network can also be re-purposed for augmenting Zika virus testing in the country,” study said.

During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks of Zika were reported from Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra, India in 2021.

The Dengue and Chikungunya negative samples were retrospectively screened to determine the presence of the Zika virus from different geographical regions of India.
Ayushman Kumar Covers health and pharma for MoneyControl.
first published: Jun 24, 2022 01:42 pm
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