Stanford pediatrician and researcher Desiree LeBeaud, MD, has been quite busy lately. Outside of her clinical and research responsibilities, LaBeaud has been called on extensively by the media to help explain the Zika virus. I recently talked with her in advance of the upcoming Childx conference, where she’ll be speaking.
Early on it was unclear if Zika was actually linked to microcephaly, a malformation of babies brains. But that has changed as the evidence mounted, she told me:
There was so much back and forth early on. Maybe it was a co‑factor. Maybe it was pesticides. Maybe it was this or that. Now that we know that this virus actually does cross the placenta and is a causing congenital infections that result in very severe deformations and malformations of babies’ brains, people are much more willing to put forth the effort, both the resources and the time to find either cures, or vaccines, or that sort of thing to prevent this infection from damaging any more babies.
The virus was discovered in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. From Africa it spread to Asia. An outbreak occurred in Micronesia’s Yap Island in 2007 where 70 percent of the population got infected. It hit the Easter Island in 2014 and Brazil, now the epicenter, in 2015. LeBeaud told me many culprits have contributed to its spread including the connectedness of the world, urbanization, global climate change and extreme weather changes such as El Nino.
As for her own research, LeBeaud, an arbovirulist, has been studying malaria, dengue and chikungunya at four sites in Kenya: “We study mosquito borne viral infections and look at the incidents and prevalence of those infections in children.”
I asked LeBeaud why a conference like Childx was important for researchers and clinicians in the pediatric field. “It’s going to be a great collection of individuals in their different areas of expertise [who are] coming together to share ideas and see how we can move child health forward. We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to protecting our children from diseases and improving their lives as they live them.”
You’ll learn more in this 1:2:1 podcast. Childx is happening here on April 21-22, and registration is now open.
Previously: Countdown to Childx: Previewing the “epicenter of innovation” for expectant moms and children, Countdown to Childx: Discussing worldwide progress on children’s survival, Registration opens for Stanford’s Childx conference, Zika is just one of many tropical viruses headed our way, says Stanford expert and Talking about the Zika virus