Researchers have found that a drug used in the treatment of Hepatitis C may be effective as a potential treatment for Zika-infected adults, including pregnant women.
According to experts, the findings indicate that the repurposed drug can effectively protect and rescue neural cells infected by the Zika virus and it blocked transmission of the virus to mouse fetuses.
"There has been a lot of work done in the past year or so to address the Zika health threat," said co-author of the study, Alysson Muotri, professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine departments of Pediatrics and Cellular, IANS reported.
"But there is also a great need to develop clinical strategies to treat Zika-infected individuals, including pregnant women for whom prevention of infection is no longer an option."
The researchers further warn that pregnant women represent the greatest health crisis as Zika infection during the first trimester is associated with the greatest risk congenital microcephaly.
For the study, the researchers investigated an antiviral drug called sofosbuvir -- approved and marketed under the brand name Sovaldi to treat and cure Hepatitis C infections. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The drug works to inhibit the replication of the Hepatitis C virus.
There was a 21-per cent increase in birth defects potentially linked to the virus, in 2016, according to a report published today (January 26) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
''This finding underscores the importance of surveillance for birth defects potentially related to Zika virus infection and the need for continued monitoring in areas at risk for Zika transmission and exposure,'' the authors said in the report.
The CDC team searched for Zika-associated birth defects, such as microcephaly, in around a million births that occurred across 15 US states and territories in 2016.
These included areas with documented cases of local Zika transmission (Puerto Rico, southern Florida, and a portion of southern Texas) as also locations with confirmed instances of travel-associated Zika infections.