Scientists Report Insights Into Zika Virus and Microcephaly

But unlike some of those viruses, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika or medicine to treat the infection.

Since the Zika outbreak that started in Brazil last May, more than 5,000 babies have been born with abnormally small heads and the possibility of severe developmental delays.

"Since the public health emergency of worldwide concern was declared (by WHO) back in February, the evidence that there may be a causal relationship has continued to accumulate", Aylward told a news briefing in Geneva.

The deputy chief of the World Health Organization, Bruce Aylward, said the study from the medical journal Lancet which focused on a small sample of people in French Polynesia provided compelling evidence that Zika triggers the syndrome.

The study, performed by dozens of scientists led by Hengli Tang, a virologist at Florida State Univeristy and Guo-li Ming, neurologist in Johns Hopkins was conducted in four laboratories in Johns Hopkins University, Florida State University and Emory University.

FILE - Women wait their turn for their pre-natal exams at the National Hospital for Women in San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 29, 2016.

In addition, doctors in Venezuela reported their first suspected Zika-linked microcephaly case in a fetus that died whose mother likely was infected with the virus.

"What we show is that the Zika virus infects neuronal cells in dish that are counterparts to those that form the cortex during human brain development". The department is providing area doctors, including obstetricians, up-to-date information about the virus, including questions to ask patients who may be exposed to Zika and common symptoms, said spokeswoman Lisa de Hernandez.

Progenitor cells are like stem cells, only more specialized. The virus killed the cells or disrupted their growth. The researchers noted that the virus used the cell's ability to reproduce itself to make copies of the virus, which helped it spread to healthy cells. Within the greater Bay Area, Alameda County has also reported a patient being infected with the disease.

While the researchers said their work does not prove conclusively that Zika causes microcephaly, they said it is an important step toward that goal.

"We do have more babies who seem to have microcephaly that haven't been born yet", Nielsen said.

Brazil said it has confirmed more than 640 cases of microcephaly, and considers a lot of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.

The scientists from both universities are collaborating on another study.

"Recent papers have found virus particles in fetal brain tissue and amniotic fluid, so as the scientific data has emerged most scientists have not had any doubt that the Zika virus is responsible for the brain injury", Schleiss said.

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