Background: Zika virus (ZIKV) is a deadly flavivirus that has spread
from Africa to Asia and European countries. The virus is associated with other viruses
in the same genus or family, transmitted by the same mosquito species with
known history of fatality. A sudden increase in the rate of infection from ZIKV has
made it a global health concern, which necessitates close symptom monitoring, enhancing
treatment options, and vaccine production.
Objectives: This paper reviewed current reports on birth defects associated with
ZIKV, mode of transmission, body fluids containing the virus, diagnosis, possible
preventive measures or treatments, and vaccine development.
Methods: Google scholar was used as the major search engine for research and review
articles, up to July, 2016. Search terms such as “ZIKV”, “ZIKV infection”,
“ZIKV serotypes”, “treatment of ZIKV infection”, “co-infection with zika virus”,
“flavivirus”, “microcephaly and zika”, “birth defects and Zika”, as well as “ZIKV
vaccine” were used.
Results: ZIKV has been detected in several body fluids such as saliva, semen, blood,
and amniotic fluid. This reveals the possibility of sexual and mother to child transmission.
The ability of the virus to cross the placental barrier and the blood brain barrier
(BBB) has been associated with birth defects such as microcephaly, ocular defects,
and Guillian Barre syndrome (GBS). Preventive measures can reduce the
spread and risk of the infection. Available treatments only target symptoms while
vaccines are still under development.
Conclusion: Birth defects are associated with ZIKV infection in pregnant women;
hence the need for development of standard treatments, employment of strict preventive
measures and development of effective vaccines.