Zika virus can keep grow­ing in in­fant brains af­ter birth

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

US re­searchers have found ev­i­dence of the Zika virus repli­cat­ing in fe­tal brains for up to seven months af­ter the mother be­came in­fected with the virus, and they showed the virus can per­sist even af­ter birth, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished on Tues­day. The find­ings con­firm ear­lier ob­ser­va­tions from case stud­ies sug­gest­ing that the mos­quito-borne Zika virus can grow in fe­tal brains and women’s pla­cen­tas.

“Our find­ings show that Zika virus can con­tinue to repli­cate in in­fants’ brains even af­ter birth, and that the virus can per­sist in pla­cen­tas for months - much longer than we ex­pected,” Julu Bhat­na­gar, lead of the molec­u­lar pathol­ogy team at CDC’s In­fec­tious Dis­eases Pathol­ogy Branch and the study’s lead au­thor, said in a state­ment. The find­ings help ex­plain how the virus causes devastating birth de­fects and preg­nancy losses even if a woman had only a mi­nor ill­ness.

Last month, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion de­clared that Zika no longer con­sti­tutes an in­ter­na­tional emer­gency, but stressed the need for a long-term effort to ad­dress the virus, which has been linked to thou­sands of birth de­fects and neu­ro­log­i­cal com­pli­ca­tions. For the study, CDC re­searchers tested tis­sues from 52 pa­tients with sus­pected Zika virus in­fec­tion, in­clud­ing brain tis­sues from eight in­fants who had mi­cro­cephaly and later died.

Per­sis­tence and im­pli­ca­tions

They also tested pla­cen­tal tis­sues from 44 women - 22 of whom de­liv­ered ap­par­ently healthy ba­bies and 22 whose preg­nan­cies ended in mis­car­riage, abor­tion, still­birth or who de­liv­ered ba­bies with mi­cro­cephaly. Zika has been shown to cause mi­cro­cephaly, a rare birth de­fect in which in­fants are born with un­der­sized heads and brains, which can cause life­long dis­abil­ity. The re­searchers found Zika ge­netic ma­te­rial in fe­tal brain tis­sue and pla­cen­tas more than seven months af­ter the mothers con­tracted the virus.

In one case, they also found ev­i­dence of the virus grow­ing in an in­fant with mi­cro­cephaly who died two months af­ter birth. Of the eight in­fants who had mi­cro­cephaly and later died, all tested positive for Zika. The mothers of all eight of these in­fants con­tracted Zika dur­ing the first trimester of preg­nancy, adding to prior ev­i­dence that Zika is most dan­ger­ous early in preg­nancy.

“We don’t know how long the virus can per­sist, but its per­sis­tence could have im­pli­ca­tions for ba­bies born with mi­cro­cephaly and for ap­par­ently healthy in­fants whose mothers had Zika dur­ing their preg­nan­cies,” said Bhat­na­gar, whose find­ings were pub­lished in CDC’s Emerg­ing In­fec­tious Dis­eases jour­nal. There are no treat­ments or vac­cines for Zika, which pre­vi­ously had been seen caus­ing only mild dis­ease.—Reuters

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