Zika, Microcephaly, and Guillan-Barré Syndrome

Project Members: Richard Ricketson, MD, James Lyons-Weiler, PhD

Collaborator: Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, BVSc, MSc, MPH, MRCVS

Collaborator: Edward Fogarty, MD

IPAK researchers are working to understand the molecular mechanisms that may be responsible for the increase in rates of microcephaly in infants born in Brazil.  We have thoroughly researched the background, and have distilled the possibilities into various specific, testable hypotheses.

The factors being explored include pesticide use in drinking water, the release of genetically modified mosquitoes, glyphosate use in agriculture, Bordetella pertussis  (whooping cough) vaccination during pregnancy (whole cell and acellular), Zika infection, and interactions among these variables. We believe we have found a molecular mechanism for Guillan-Barré Syndrome, which, unlike microcephaly, has been observed in countries outside of Brazil.

Many of the hypotheses involve molecular mimicry between proteins in Zika and humans and Bordetella pertussis and humans.

Here is our manuscript in review at PLOS One. The editors have encouraged us to share the MS given that Zika and microcephaly are both public health emergencies.

To fund the validation phase of this research, please donate to IPAK.

Zika/Microcephaly/Guillan-Barré Fact List 

  • Microcephaly has thus far (Feb 16, 2016) been limited to Brazil, or pregnancies that occurred in Brazil.
  • Other countries have thousands of cases of pregnant women infected with Zika, with no increase in microcephaly.
  • Microcephaly in Brazil began much earlier than reported (July 2012). 
  • The report to the WHO in October 2015 was not the beginning.Therefore, putative causal factors that predate July 2012 are important.
  • Additional factors may have contributed to the increase in rates of severe microcephaly, starting between April 2013 and January 2014. (Soares de Araújo, 2016, see Figures 1 and 2).
  • The link between Zika and microcephaly has not yet been fully established. Many women have contracted Zika infection without microcephaly.
  • The majority of cases of microcephaly have not been connected to Zika infection.

Please help support IPAK researchers in the IPAK Zika Project. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible. IPAK researchers have no financial conflicts of interest in the research we conduct.  Donate today.


Soares de Araújo JS, Regis CT, Gomes RGS, Tavares TR, Rocha dos Santos C, Assunção PM, et al. Microcephaly in northeast Brazil: a review of 16 208 births between 2012 and 2015. Bull World Health Organ, E-pub: 4 Feb 2016. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2471/BLT.16.170639

Last updated: April 4, 2016