U.S and Brazilian health workers teamed up to gather Zika-related data from Paraiba, the impoverished state in northeastern Brazil, which is known to be the epicenters of the country’s outbreak of Zika and microcephaly.

Eight teams, made of one disease expert from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and three Brazilian health workers, ventured to the slums with the main focus of persuading about 100 mothers of recently born babies with microcephaly to enroll in the study, as reported by NBC News.

The teams were not only looking for microcephaly-born babies and their mothers, they went also looking for the participation of mothers from the same are who delivered babies without the birth defect at about the same time.

Photo: The New York Times/Felipe Dana/Associated Press
Photo: The New York Times/Felipe Dana/Associated Press

The study, for which they are gathering data, aims to determine if the Brazilian government is right about the Zika virus being the cause of microcephaly, or if the virus is only partially responsible.

Many obstacles were found by the researchers, the seemingly straightforward task of locating and interviewing the women brought the team to traffic jams, logistical snags and menacing weather.

Their first appointment was missed, as they were stuck in the chronic gridlock of the capital, Joao Pessoa. Appointments also were moved to other hours due to logistical problems.

The team showed its dedication to the fulfillment of their task as Dr. Alexia Harrist, a Boston-born pediatrician who works for the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, said they were really dedicated to getting the work done, no matter how long it would take.

First-Day Findings

Although conclusive results will take time, almost a month to even gather data, team members have shared what they found in their first day, or at least their experience and hopes.

One of the interviewed mothers was Janine dos Santos, a 23-year-old unemployed former towel factory worker, that shares the space with her mother, two siblings and two children, including her newborn baby, Shayde Henrique.

Henrique was born in November with the small head and brain damage caused by microcephaly. “Not only me but all the mothers, we want to understand the mystery behind all this, what really causes microcephaly?” said Santos.

She was questioned about many subjects, from whether she used insect repellent during pregnancy to what her drinking water sources were. The visiting team also recovered blood samples from the mother and the child for further analysis.

Nearby another new mother was found, but this lucky one did not conceive her child with the birth defect. Aline Ferreira, 26, had her daughter when the Zika virus was already considered a threat. These cases are a critical element to understanding the virus functions and if it is concrete to blame for the microcephaly, noted the team.

Despite the rocky start, Harrist said that the generosity and openness of the two young mothers her team managed to contact gave her hope. She said she was encouraged by the events on Tuesday.

Source: NBC News