Zika:Development of an online data-sharing platform for images of fetal and newborn heads - An urgent need in the context of the Zika virus outbreak

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford


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Technical Summary

International organisations in the global health community, including WHO, have recently
stressed the critical need to share data about emerging infections amongst researchers
around the world to extract the maximum scientific knowledge from the available datasets.
This applies particularly during the current Zika virus outbreak because a causal association
between maternal exposure and congenital microcephaly has not been definitively
Some Brasilian groups are already acquiring ultrasound, CT and MR images of affected
infants. However, no facility exists to enable those images to be shared with other scientists
so as to improve the phenotypic characterisation of microcephaly and facilitate research into
the causal association with Zika virus exposure.
We have, therefore, assembled a multi-disciplinary team of clinician scientists,
epidemiologists, geneticists, engineers, computational biologists and radiologists from Brasil,
the USA and UK, to produce a secure, online, digital information platform for images of fetal
and newborn heads (plus associated clinical and laboratory records) as a global data-sharing
The platform will be developed (in a basic form within 3 months) in partnership with a
consortium of three software companies with considerable experience of designing databases
that can store millions of images in a high-security environment for rapid searching and
interrogation with a range of analytical and visualisation tools.
The growing image datasets in Brasil will be further expanded by acquiring 2D and 3D
photographs of affected newborns (and controls) to help screen for microcephaly by
automating the measurement of head size and shape, and exploring facial characteristics as
potential diagnostic markers.


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Title Zika data sharing platform 
Description The primary purpose of the grant is to build a database of images and associated clinical data. To date, we have spent a great deal of time putting in place the necessary ethical approvals, governance arrangements, data sharing agreements, publication policies, contracts with our collaborators in Brazil, online security measures and servers for data storage. A team has also visited Brazil to train researchers to capture 3D images of Zika affected infants. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The first images and associated clinical data have been obtained in Brazil by our collaborators and are being transferred to Oxford. The database structure, however, is still being developed. 
Description Glopid-R Zika Conference, Sao Paulo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The conference brought together funders, such as the Wellcome Trust, and scientists from Europe, Latin America and the United States to discuss data sharing amongst groups studying the epidemiology of Zika.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.glopid-r.org/find-out-about-our-work/zika-workshop-2016/