Brazilian researchers yesterday described for the first time another complication in babies born with Zika virus infection: a joint deformity known as arthrogryposis.The new findings underscore warnings from top health officials over the past several months that microcephaly and brain malformations could be the tip of the iceberg regarding birth defects linked to the virus. Though microcephaly was the first Zika-linked manifestation seen in newborns, clinicians who have observed a range of problems refer to the birth defects as congenital Zika syndrome.In other Zika research developments today, a team led by the University of Kansas unveiled a new Zika risk map that accounts for more factors that earlier maps.Joint problem seen alongside other birth defectsResearchers from the Brazilian city of Recife, which has been at the center of the outbreak, detailed seven arthrogryposis cases in babies born with Zika virus in an early online edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Though earlier case reports hinted at an association between arthrogryposis and microcephaly in newborns affected by Zika virus, yesterday’s report is the first case series.All of the babies had congenital Zika infections and signs of brain calcification. They were seen at a rehabilitation center in Pernambuco that follows Zika-affected babies. Investigations ruled out other causes of microcephaly, including toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella, syphilis, and HIV. All were born at term, and only one child had a normal head circumference.Arthrogryposis was seen in both the arms and legs of six babies and only in the legs of the seventh. Electromyelography suggested problems with peripheral motor neurons, and spinal MRI showed thinning of the spinal cord.Problem linked to Zika attack on nerve cells?High-definition scans of joints and surrounding tissues found no joint abnormalities, which led the team to suspect that the deformities were neurogenic, affecting muscle contraction and relaxation and producing fixed postures in the womb.The team wrote that possible mechanisms include Zika virus damage to neurons or neural progenitor cells, already thought to be a culprit in microcephaly and related cerebral malformation. They also said the condition might be related to problems with arteries and veins.The team said that though more research with larger numbers of babies is needed to identify the neurologic abnormalities that lead to arthrogryposis, children born with Zika virus should receive orthopedic follow-up because of the risk of developing musculoskeletal deformities.’Expanding list of devastating outcomes’Siobahn Dolan, MD, MPH, medical advisor to the March of Dimes, said of the new findings, “Everything we’re learning from what Brazil is experiencing is concerning.” Reports of arthrogryposis seem to be “a downstream effect” and are another sign of how serious the neurologic insult from Zika virus can be to fetuses, she added.The expanding list of devastating outcomes is tragic, Dolan said.Clinicians don’t yet know what the long-term functional capacity will be for babies born with arthrogryposis, she said. “It will be a while until we know the full spectrum.”Dolan said the complications underscore the importance of steps to protect pregnant women, such as avoiding mosquito bites, taking sexual precautions if a partner may be infected with Zika virus, and avoiding travel to Zika-affected areas.New map weaves in more Zika factorsThe new Zika risk map was recently published on the fast-track publication site of Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Institute. In a University of Kansaspress release, researchers said the risk is affected by a range of factors, such as climate, socioeconomics, and people’s ability to access certain areas.Breaking down the global land areas into 5-by-5 kilometer squares, the map shows the virus’ powerful ability to spread in South and Central America, as well as the first assessment of Zika transmission risk in Europe, which appears to be relatively low. Vulnerable parts of the United States include parts of Florida, Texas, and Louisiana.Abdallah Samy, PhD, who led the team at the Kansas University Biodiversity Institute, said in the press release that the map can be used by public health officials and international groups to battle the virus. “It’s also intended for the public. If you’re going to travel to a specific area in Brazil, and you know it’s a risk area for Zika, you should consider how to reduce the chances of transmission with clothing or insect repellant,” he said.See also:Aug 9 BMJ reportAug 9 BMJ press releaseAug 10 University of Kansas press releaseOswaldo Cruz Zika fast track reportMarch of Dimes Zika virus and pregnancy advisory
Tickets for Cambridge Folk Festival 2020 are on sale now.The Festival takes place 30 July – 2 August 2020 in the picturesque grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge.Eddie Barcan, who previously programmed 23 consecutive sell-outs, returns as guest artistic director for 2020.“For me, Cambridge is about the sheer variety and quality of the music, the new discoveries as well as the stars,” Eddie Barcan said. “The entire weekend is a unique experience and you need to be there all four days to really appreciate it. I can’t wait to share what I’m working on for 2020.”Cambridge Folk Festival is celebrating 56 years since the inaugural event when a young Paul Simon was given a spot at the foot of the bill. Since then the festival has seen the likes of Joan Baez, James Taylor, Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Patti Smith, Nick Cave, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Jimmy Cliff, Mavis Staples, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Lucinda Williams, First Aid Kit, Christy Moore, Baaba Maal, Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, , Amadou & Mariam, The Chieftains, Judy Collins, Sinead O’Connor and The Proclaimers performing.The festival also includes other activities, from workshops and discussions to well-being and children’s entertainment, for an all-round, unique weekend experience.“I’m very happy to see the Cambridge Folk Festival return for its 56th edition,” said Antoinette Jackson, chief executive of Cambridge City Council which delivers the Festival. “Year after year, the Festival welcomes music lovers to the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall to hear top artists from around the world. It’s a testament to what a vibrant place Cambridge is that it hosts one of the most prestigious and longest-running folk festivals in the UK.”Get your tickets from https://www.cambridgelive.org.uk/folk-festival/tickets.
WASHINGTON — In one of his last major appearances on the world stage, President Barack Obama will try to define how his leadership has made the planet safer and more prosperous when he gives his farewell speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.Obama’s challenge at the annual gathering of world leaders is to cast the past eight years as ones of overall progress, without glossing over the profound problems that have eluded his diplomacy. His successes in galvanizing action on climate change and encouraging democratic changes in Cuba and Myanmar are tempered by crises across the Middle East and North Korea’s nuclear threat, which has only strengthened.Obama’s U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, said that when Obama came into office in early 2009, the U.S. was isolated. She said Obama had told fellow leaders he planned a “new era of engagement” that recognized countries must address common threats together.“I think it’s hard to overstate the transformative effect that this approach has had,” Power said.After raising money for Democrats on Sunday in New York, Obama planned to open his week of diplomacy by meeting with Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, on Monday. Obama is counting on the Baghdad government to bridge sectarian divides and help fight the Islamic State group.On Tuesday, Obama will deliver his U.N. address, attend a lunch with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meet with CEOs and host a summit on refugees. The U.S. has urged other nations to take in more migrants and help address the unprecedented refugee crisis stemming from Syria’s civil war.