New Delhi: While cases of Zika virus are being reported from Jaipur in Rajasthan, scientists have found strains of the virus from other parts of India as well. Scientists examining patients with Guillain–Barre syndrome (GBS) in south India have found the presence of antibodies against Zika virus (ZIKV).

The research published in the latest issue of Neurology India journal, indicated that Zika virus may be circulating in the area and be a causative factor for GBS.

Scientists at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Puducherry studied 90 patients to find Zika antibodies were present in 14 patients. Four patients were also found to be dengue antibody positive. There may be a possibility that the patients got infected from the virus and it contributed to the GBS disease, the research indicated.

“Zika Virus may be present in several areas of the country, but currently we have diagnosed only some cases from Gujarat and Rajasthan. During our research, we found antibodies for Zika virus in GBS patients. The virus may be circulating along with the dengue virus also, however, we did not look for circulation of dengue and Zika," said Deepak Amalnath, one of the authors of the study.

According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Zika may not be new to India. In 1954, National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, formerly Virus Research Centre, had tested samples from Bharuch district in Gujarat that showed ZIKV antibody in 16.8% of the samples. Zika virus is an emerging viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. This is the same mosquito that is known to transmit dengue and chikungunya.

“Wide research has proved that Zika virus causes microcephaly and GBS. It is very likely that the disease is present in many other parts of the country other than Rajasthan and Gujarat," said A.C. Dhariwal, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.

“Zika virus may be present in India, but it is not showing up due to varied reasons. The reason may be the antibodies for dengue are neutralizing Zika virus. We have to be very careful in surveillance," he added. ICMR has also initiated laboratory testing for microcephaly cases detected in the newborn birth screening programme, which is currently operational across 55 medical colleges in India, through the Rashtriya Bal Suraksha Karyakram of the reproductive and child health division of the ministry of health and family welfare.

Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. Outbreaks of Zika virus have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. During large outbreaks in French Polynesia and Brazil in 2013 and 2015, respectively, national health authorities reported potential neurological and auto-immune complications of Zika virus disease.

‘There may be possibility that the patients got infected from the virus and it contributed to the GBS disease’-

The disease has been reported from across 86 countries. Symptoms are similar to other viral infections such as dengue, which include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headache. There is no available drug or vaccine against Zika. Treatment is mainly supportive. Vector control is the key to prevention and control of Zika virus infection. Till Thursday, the number of Zika cases recorded in Jaipur was 86.

The first outbreak in India was reported in Ahmedabad in January-February 2017. The second outbreak was reported after five months in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu. Both were successfully contained through intensive surveillance and vector management. The disease continues to be on surveillance radars of the Union health ministry, although it is no longer a public health emergency of international concern, according to a World Health Organization notification on 18 November, 2016.

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