Doctors say even if babies infected with the Zika virus in the womb are born with normal-size heads, they could still suffer unknown symptoms down the road. Dr. Jon LaPook goes to Puerto Rico, where thousands of pregnant women were infected with Zika, and into the labs of the National Institutes of Health where a Zika vaccine is being developed, for a report to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.
Dr. Alberto De la Vega, an obstetrician at University Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is treating hundreds of Zika-positive pregnant women. He says the babies born to Zika-infected mothers without obvious brain injuries are not out of danger yet. “We only know about the more severe consequences,” De la Vega tells LaPook. “How about all the other problems that could arise? Is this baby going to have autism? Is this baby going to have learning disabilities? Is he going to have cerebral palsy? We don’t know.”
Already, doctors are finding that in addition to microcephaly, babies can suffer other developmental problems -- inability to swallow, seizures, hearing loss and damage to the retina, which can lead to blindness.
Dr. Anthony Fauci believes an experimental vaccine he is developing holds promise to combat the Zika virus, the most vicious he’s seen in 30 years. Fauci heads the infectious diseases institute at the NIH. In his lab, he shows LaPook how the Zika vaccine was created and the preliminary test results of its use in a human.
Fauci explains how the vaccine the NIH created for West Nile virus was reconfigured using DNA technology to work against Zika. The first patient to receive a dose of the new vaccine was tested a month later for Zika-fighting antibodies in her bloodstream. 60 Minutes cameras were there. The results were positive for the antibodies. “How about that? That’s called instant gratification,” says Fauci. “We know that this kind of antibody protects an animal. So you can make a reasonable extrapolation that if you make the same response in a human, that you will ultimately protect the human,” he says.