The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston has decided to partner with the Brazilian Ministry of Health (BMH) as the two entities seek to stop the Zika virus.
The BMH and UTMB will provide researchers tools and ideas to develop a vaccine for the virus. Many research groups around the world are coming together -- or working independently -- to develop a vaccine to combat the virus, which has swept across Latin America. The virus has also started affecting the U.S., and an outbreak is expected in the coming months. Both groups will work on developing tools to diagnose and treat the virus.
Brazilian health officials and scientists from BMH visited the university for a week in early February. UTMB professors Pei-Yong Shi and Mariano Garcia-Blanco, both from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, along with Robert Tesh from the Department of Pathology, coordinated the visit. Pedro Vasconcelos led the delegate from Brazil.
The virus is known to cause microcephaly, which causes newborns to have unusually small heads. This shrinking can cause permanent brain damage in babies. The virus can also cause neurological issues, though the disease poses the largest threat to pregnant mothers.