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UNC: Researchers Awarded NIAID Grant To Examine Dengue And Zika Interplay During Gestation And Childhood

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will lead a study to examine how dengue and Zika interplay during gestation and childhood, thanks to a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Studying a cohort of 512 women in León, Nicaragua, who were pregnant during the Zika virus epidemic, the team will determine whether the antibodies that mothers form against Zika also could protect their developing infants against dengue, as the two viruses are closely related. Additionally, the researchers will determine whether developing infants of mothers who were exposed to dengue in the past respond differently to a maternal Zika infection.

The principal investigator for the project is Dr. Natalie Bowman, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UNC School of Medicine. Co-principal investigators are Dr. Sylvia Becker-Dreps, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and of family medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, and Dr. Filemon Bucardo a faculty member at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua at León.

Dr. Becker-Dreps hopes this research will help to better understand how to prevent the burden of dengue and Zika in young children.

“We are one of the few research groups that have assembled a cohort of pregnant women who were exposed to Zika during the American Zika epidemic,” she said. “We are hoping to gather all the information we can from these women and infants before the next epidemic hits.”

The grant, titled “Implications of Congenital Zika Virus Infection,” will run until March 30, 2021.

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