Ottawa – Three teams of Canadian researchers will work with researchers from Latin America and the Caribbean to study the Zika virus, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced Thursday in partnership with the International Development Research Center.
This is part of the $3 million investment in virus research from the Department of Health Canada in May 2016.
They are the team of Dr. Tom Hobman of the University of Alberta, Dr. Keith Pardee of the University of Toronto, Dr. Beate Sander’s team, Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion.
The spread of the Zika virus is an urgent public health issue in many countries. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika infections, which can cause serious birth defects, or medication to treat them.
The teams will try, among other things, to understand the pathology induced by the virus and to prevent transmission and morbidity.
This initiative is crucial to help protect the people of the Americas and Canada from the Zika virus and other related diseases, according to Jean Lebel, President of the International Development Research Center.
“This insidious virus has serious consequences for vulnerable groups in Latin America, especially mothers, children, and poor urban populations who have limited access to health services,” he added.
According to Dr. Marc Ouellette, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity, the three research teams have the potential to shed new light on the Zika virus and save lives.
“They will be able to find faster ways to detect the infection, determine the best methods to stop mosquitoes spreading the virus and develop effective treatments against the Zika virus,” he said.
481 cases in Canada
Currently, 481 cases of Zika infection have been identified in Canada. Most are related to travel, although the virus can also be transmitted from mother to fetus and through sexual intercourse.
Zika can cause serious congenital anomalies such as microcephaly and neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant avoid travel to areas of the United States, such as Florida, or to countries where there has been reported transmission of Zika virus by mosquitoes.