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The Zika virus is a disease which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, the same mosquito that carries yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya virus. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache. The Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. In rare cases, Zika has been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that can cause partial or complete paralysis, usually starting in the legs, most often temporary. So far, the only cases in the United States have been travel-associated. The CDC website offers prevention steps for adults and children as well as travel health notices.
Earlier this month, Quest Diagnostics received emergency use authorization for the Zika Virus RNA Qualitative Real-Time RT-PCR test (Zika RT-PCR test) from the U.S Food and Drug Administration, making it that much more important for tests and treatment to be discovered and available as soon as possible.
The Zika RT-PCR test, which was “designed to detect RNA from the Zika virus in human serum specimens,” is the “first from a commercial laboratory provider to be granted emergency use authorization for testing patients for Zika virus RNA,” according to the Pharmacy Times. Previously, Zika tests were only available from the CDC and were only able to be used in qualified labs.
Zika Virus Education Initiative
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation is launching a Zika virus education initiative in Puerto Rico where the highest number of locally transmitted cases has been reported. The initiative encourages women to consult pharmacists and physicians to learn how they can protect themselves and their unborn children. Zika virus-infected patients are living in 50 of 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico.
Zika Virus Treatments
Although there are currently no approved drugs available to treat the Zika Virus, researchers have started to look at older approved drugs to determine if they may block the infection caused by the virus or prevent it from harming an individual’s brain or nervous system (as reported by USA Today). Virginia based Atheric Pharmaceuticals has already tested approximately a dozen compounds in lab dishes, and Raymond Schinazi of Emory’s biochemical pharmacology lab reported that he tested a 40-year-old drug that is safe to use during pregnancy. Mauro Martins Teixeira of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil has tested an Alzheimer’s drug to see how it works in protecting the brain from Zika’s toxic effects. US Phytotherapy Inc. recently finished their research on their drug candidate PROACT-Z and plans to move towards testing it in human trials.
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