Researching Zika in pregnancy: lessons for global preparedness

26 Feb, 2020

Authors: Ades AE, Thorne C, Soriano-Arandes A, et al.

Published in: Lancet Infect Dis. 2020 Feb 18

Abstract: Our understanding of congenital infections is based on prospective studies of women infected during pregnancy. The EU has funded three consortia to study Zika virus, each including a prospective study of pregnant women. Another multi-centre study has been funded by the US National Institutes of Health. This Personal View describes the study designs required to research Zika virus, and questions whether funding academics in the EU and USA to work with collaborators in outbreak areas is an effective strategy. 3 years after the 2015–16 Zika virus outbreaks, these collaborations have taught us little about vertical transmission of the virus. In the time taken to approve funding, agree contracts, secure ethics approval, and equip laboratories, Zika virus had largely disappeared. By contrast, prospective studies based on local surveillance and standard-of-care protocols have already provided valuable data. Threats to fetal and child health pose new challenges for global preparedness requiring support for the design and implementation of locally appropriate protocols. These protocols can answer the key questions earlier than externally designed studies and at lower cost. Local protocols can also provide a framework for recruitment of unexposed controls that are required to study less specific outcomes. Other priorities include accelerated development of non-invasive tests, and longer-term storage of neonatal and antenatal samples to facilitate retrospective reconstruction of cohort studies.