Tag: birth defects

Bioethics News

Zika Vaccines And Pregnant Women: Here’s What Ethics Experts Say

July 10, 2017

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Avril Lavigne once sang, “Tell me, why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?” Since that was from her 2002 album Let Go, chances are she was not singing to the Zika virus…unless she knew something that we didn’t at the time. But nowadays her Complicated song could certainly apply to nearly everything about the Zika virus…including the Zika vaccines that are currently under development.

I’ve previously written about how the Zika virus has turned out to be a trickier than initially thought. But what’s so complicated about Zika vaccines besides the fact that vaccine development in general is complicated? Well, the biggest risk of Zika infection is to pregnant women, because the virus can cause devastating birth defects in the fetus. Therefore, pregnant women could certainly use a Zika vaccine for protection, but….  Don’t we usually avoid testing vaccines or other medications on pregnant women, because of potential risk to the fetus and the woman and the many changes a body undergoes while pregnant? A pregnant woman is not the same as a non-pregnant woman in many ways physiologically. A two-weeks pregnant woman is not the same as 2-months pregnant woman. One pregnant woman is not the same as another pregnant woman. These physiologic changes and ethical issues make Zika vaccine development and testing more…complicated, as Lavigne sang, “Uh huh, uh huh. That’s the way it is.” Time to call in the ethics experts.

That’s what the Wellcome Trust did in supporting the formation of the “Ethics Working Group on Zika Virus Research & Pregnancy.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Very Early Embryo & Its Moral Signifiance

by Andrew J. Prunty

As technology and biological research continue to develop in the twenty-first century, it is necessary to address and further define the ethical considerations of embryonic research and the appropriate rights that may limit the extent of human research on zygotes, blastocysts, and fetal scientific advancement. Because the area of harvesting embryonic stem cells remains significantly undefined, both legally and morally, there are vastly different opinions between researchers and bioethicists, mainly because of ethical limitations, on the rights that should be granted to cells with the potential to develop into human beings and the consequences of neglecting significant scientific research or advancement.

Current laws in the United States differ at the federal and state level, but there is no consistency in recognizing human embryos as humans, or affording them the same legal rights granted to a child; in fact, legal precedent actually detracts certain rights from developing embryos, favoring a human’s ability to destroy a potential human being (i.e. Roe v. Wade[i]) or the categorization of embryos as property (i.e. Davis v. Davis[ii], A.Z. v. B.Z.[iii], Marriage of Dahl[iv], or Reber v. Reiss[v]). These case law samples suggest the courts’ inability to reach a conclusion as to what is the status of an embryo.

The debate is not only circumscribed to matters of research, but to fundamental controversial and intertwined issues of bioethics such as: when life begins, embryonic stem cells, fetal rights, abortion, et cetera. All these topics are contentious and when one topic arises, they begin to comingle.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Silence = Death

May 18, 2017

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Silence = Death

As Donald Trump fights for his political life following new revelations about wholly inappropriate disclosure of classified materials and potential obstruction of justice, he has quietly issued new orders that will condemn thousands of women and children around the world to death.

Largely overlooked given the media frenzy about the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the US Presidential election was an announcement that the TrumpAdministration will vastly expand the scope of the “Global Gag Rule”, the international anti-abortion policy first enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Also known as the Mexico City Policy, the rule prohibits organizations that receive family planning money from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from providing or promoting abortion. This is true even if they do so with private money. In fact, if they take so much as a single dollar from the US, they can’t even mention the word ‘abortion’ regardless of whether or not these organizations actually provide such services.

Every time a Democrat is in the White House, the global gag rule is rescinded. Every time a Republican enters the Oval Office, it is reinstated. President Trump himself did so just three days after assuming office. Until now, family planning organizations around the world have largely learned to deal with this ebb-and-flow. That is all about to change.

On Monday, Trump announced a new policy called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance. That policy expands the scope of the Global Gag Rule.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Birth Defects Jump Twentyfold in Zika-Hit Mothers: Study

March 3, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – Pregnant women infected with the Zika virus last year were 20 times more likely to bear children with birth defects than those who gave birth prior to the epidemic, US health officials said Thursday. Researchers for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared birth outcomes prior to the Zika epidemic’s outbreak in 2015—using data from three US state registries—to those of mothers infected by the virus in 2016.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Zika Timeline of Events

Zika Timeline of Events

February 14, 2017

Even though the Zika virus did not make national headlines until November 2015 when Brazil declared a national emergency after reporting an abnormally high number of cases of babies born with microcephaly or Guillain-Barré syndrome, the virus was actually first identified in 1947 in a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda. Zika is a mosquito-borne disease that shows mild-to-moderate symptoms in adult humans. Its symptoms are similar to dengue fever and chikungunya. The first human case of Zika was found in Uganda and The United Republic of Tanzania in 1952.

In the intervening sixty years, some cases of Zika were found throughout western Africa and Asia. However, these populations seemed to have a fairly good immunity to the disease. It was not until the virus hit the Pacific Islands in 2007 that it became an outbreak. In 2013, a Zika outbreak occurred in several more Pacific Island nations, and it was during this time that Zika was suspected of causing neurological and autoimmune problems.

By March 2015, Brazil reported an illness that expressed a skin rash, and by May, Brazil confirmed that Zika was in the country. In July, they found that certain neurological disorders correlated with Zika infection, but this was isolated to the state of Bahia. Then, in October, Brazil reported an inordinate number of cases of microcephaly among newborns, and declared a national emergency in November. Meanwhile, cases of Zika were increasingly reported throughout northern South America and Central America. By January 2016, researchers had drawn preliminary links to pregnant mothers infected by Zika and babies born with microcephaly.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Zika Ebbing in Latin America But Vigilance Needed: WHO

February 1, 2017

(Reuters) – Brazil and Latin America are recording lower numbers of Zika infections than last year, but all countries must remain vigilant against the virus which can cause birth defects, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. The viral disease carried by mosquitoes has spread to more than 60 countries and territories since an outbreak was identified in Brazil in 2015, raising alarm over its ability to cause microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Snapshots of Life: Coming Face to Face with Development

Credit: Oscar Ruiz and George Eisenhoffer, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a favorite model for studying development, in part because its transparent embryos make it possible to produce an ever-growing array of amazingly informative images. For one recent example, check out this Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2016 BioArt winner, which shows the developing face of a 6-day-old zebrafish larva.

Yes, those downturned “lips” are indeed cells that will go on to become the fish’s mouth. But all is not quite what it appears: the two dark circles that look like eyes are actually developing nostrils. Both the nostrils and mouth express high levels of F-actin (green), a structural protein that helps orchestrate cell movement. Meanwhile, the two bulging areas on either side of the fish’s head, which are destined to become eyes and skin, express keratin (red).

Oscar Ruiz, who works in the lab of George Eisenhoffer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, used a confocal microscope to create this image. What was most innovative about his work was not the microscope itself, but how he prepared the sample for imaging. With traditional methods, researchers can only image the faces of zebrafish larvae from the side or the bottom. However, the Eisenhoffer lab has devised a new method of preparing fish larvae that makes it possible to image their faces head-on. This has enabled the team to visualize facial development at much higher resolution than was previously possible.

In addition to still shots, the Eisenhoffer lab makes real-time movies that, when coupled with sophisticated computer software, can be used to trace the paths of individual cells in developing zebrafish larvae with exquisite precision.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

How the Response to Zika Failed Millions

Almost a year ago, the World Health Organization declared the Zika epidemic a global health emergency, calling for an epic campaign against a virus that few had ever heard of. As it spread to almost every country in the Western Hemisphere, scientists and health officials at every level of government swung into action, trying to understand how the infection caused birth defects and how it could be stopped

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Doctors Describe First U.S. Case of Locally Acquired Zika in Pregnancy

January 12, 2017

(UPI) – The first case of locally acquired Zika virus in a pregnant woman in the United States did not result in devastating birth defects, doctors report. In a case study from the University of Miami, doctors provide new insight into the mosquito-borne virus, showing fetal exposure doesn’t necessarily mean infection. The report also alerts doctors to suspect Zika in patients who may have traveled to south Florida, not just to areas outside the country where the virus is more prevalent.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Research Data, Missing for Decades, Raise Concerns for Morning Sickness Drug

January 4, 2017

(STAT News) – The only FDA-approved drug for morning sickness, taken by some 33 million women worldwide since the 1950s, has had a history of ups and downs. A new study adds further uncertainty about the drug. Diclegis, approved by the FDA in 2013, is the rebranded version of an earlier medication called Bendectin. That pill was widely prescribed for more than 50 years, but in the late 1970s, lawsuits began calling into doubt its safety, alleging that the drug caused birth defects.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.