Evidence grows for Zika role in brain damage

February 11, 2016
Transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of Zika virus. Credit: Cynthia Goldsmith/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Evidence piled up Thursday implicating the Zika virus in a surge of brain damaged babies in Latin America, with two reports of the disease found in the neural tissue of affected infants.

Scientists in Slovenia reported in the New England Journal of Medicine they had found traces of Zika virus in the brain of an aborted foetus with severe microcephaly, a condition that causes unusually small skulls and brains, leading to death or disability.

The infant's mother, from Europe, had likely been infected with Zika in Brazil, which has borne the brunt of the and simultaneous microcephaly surge in Latin America and the Caribbean, they wrote.

The work "is proof of the fatal effects of Zika virus on the foetus," the Ljubljana medical hospital, whose researchers did the work, said in a statement.

This was highlighted by the "presence of the virus in the , and the absence of any other cause" of the child's malformation, it added.

No scientific proof has been found that Zika causes microcephaly, though the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) has said a link is "strongly suspected" and has declared Zika a " of international concern."

There is no cure or vaccine for the virus which, in most people, causes mild symptoms.

Even the detection of the virus in baby brain tissue does not constitute final proof that Zika in fact caused the microcephaly, and experts fear that finding conclusive evidence either way, could take years.

A separate team led by researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on tests on two newborns with microcephaly who died within 20 hours after birth, and two miscarriages.

All four mothers had symptoms of Zika infection, but were not tested for it. Both newborns had evidence of Zika virus in the brain.

"This report describes evidence of link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly..." wrote the team.

"To better understand the pathogenesis of Zika virus infection and associated congenital anomalies and fetal death, it is necessary to evaluate autopsy and placental tissues from additional cases."

Explore further: UN: Zika virus link to small-head condition 'circumstantial'

Related Stories

Venezuela reports 4,700 suspected Zika cases

January 28, 2016

Venezuela has recorded 4,700 suspected cases of people infected by the Zika virus, which is thought to cause brain damage in babies, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Europe creates Zika drug 'task force'

February 8, 2016

Europe's medicines watchdog said Monday it had assembled an expert team to aid the development of drugs and vaccines against Zika virus, feared to cause brain damage in unborn babies.

Zika virus: Five things to know

February 8, 2016

A concise "Five things to know about.... Zika virus infection" article for physicians highlights key points about this newly emerged virus in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Recommended for you

Zika virus may persist in the vagina days after infection

August 25, 2016

The Zika virus reproduces in the vaginal tissue of pregnant mice several days after infection, according to a study by Yale researchers. From the genitals, the virus spreads and infects the fetal brain, impairing fetal development. ...

Team discovers how Zika virus causes fetal brain damage

August 24, 2016

Infection by the Zika virus diverts a key protein necessary for neural cell division in the developing human fetus, thereby causing the birth defect microcephaly, a team of Yale scientists reported Aug. 24 in the journal ...

Immune breakthrough: Unscratching poison ivy's rash

August 23, 2016

We all know that a brush with poison ivy leaves us with an itchy painful rash. Now, Monash University and Harvard researchers have discovered the molecular cause of this irritation. The finding brings us a step closer to ...

Zika infection may affect adult brain cells

August 18, 2016

Concerns over the Zika virus have focused on pregnant women due to mounting evidence that it causes brain abnormalities in developing fetuses. However, new research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.