MedSciNet is developing a unique, online, data sharing platform for research into the association between microcephaly and exposure to Zika virus in pregnancy. The data include ultrasound, CT and MR images of fetal and newborn heads, as well as anonymised clinical information.
The ongoing Zika virus outbreak has led researchers to propose a causal link between Zika virus infection and congenital microcephaly. To improve the characterization and assessment of fetal and newborn heads, images are being collected from affected babies and controls but, at present, no facility exists to enable these data to be shared amongst researchers worldwide. The platform is being developed to enable these data to be shared, in accordance with the recommendations of WHO and other international organizations so as to maximize the scientific knowledge that can be obtained from these datasets.
The data sharing platform will allow the secure transfer, storage and analysis of images and associated clinical data from newborns across Brasil. Comparing the size and shape of the heads against the international, gestational age specific, Newborn Size Standards developed by the INTERGROWTH-21st Project will improve the specificity of epidemiological studies. In addition, acquisition of 2D and 3D photographs may reveal facial characteristics that are specific to infection with Zika virus.
The project is headed by Professor Stephen Kennedy at the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (University of Oxford). Read about more about Zika virus research at the University of Oxford here.