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Zika Virus Causes Babies With Microcephaly to Suffer Delayed Brain Development

Update Date: Apr 08, 2016 05:41 AM EDT

Zika virus invades fetal nerve cells and delays brain development, brain scan done to 23 Brazilian infants with microcephaly suggested.

Dr. Ana van der Linden of the Instituto de Medicina Integral, a researcher from Brazil's Northeastern state of Pernambuco was among the team that did the study and the first to suggest that the increasing cases of microcephaly in Brazil are connected with Zika virus.

According to Fox News, Brazil is doing an investigation to thousands of microcephaly cases and has confirmed that more than 940 of these cases are related to Zika infections in their mothers.

The scientists did multiple studies and tests on mothers in their efforts to eliminate other probable cause of the microcephaly, which includes cytomegalovirus, parvovirus, toxoplasmosis, rubella and HIV. All of these diseases resulted to negative. All mothers showed consistent Zika virus symptoms such as fever and rash. Seven infants were tested positive for Zika antibodies coming from their spinal fluids.

CT scans were performed on babies between three days and five months old. All scans showed signs of brain calcification which suggests brain inflammation. Many of these babies showed other abnormalities such as disruptions in brain folds, brain swelling, underdeveloped brain structures, and abnormalities in myelin, which forms protective sheaths on nerve fibers.

The findings showed that Zika virus can easily infect brain cells, slowing their growth. This is consistent with a study that was published last month that tested lab dishes full of nerve stem cells which are similar to the cells in the brains of human fetuses.

The result of the study suggests that "ZIKV is associated with a disruption in brain development rather than the destruction of [the] brain," the authors write. However, they also stated that the results that positive as it can also be found in infants with different congenital viral infections, Tech Times reported.

The recent Zika virus outbreak which started in May 2015 in Brazil was caused by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. During the outbreak, a huge number of babies with microcephaly were recorded in Zika-affected regions.

There are strong evidence to prove that Zika causes microcephaly. However, a conclusive evidence to confirm the virus association with the birth defect may take years to surface.

Meanwhile, more microcephaly cases were recorded in Martinique and Brazil. The World Health Organization said that 7 among the 32 cases reported last week in Colombia were positive for Zika virus on real-time polymerase chain reaction testing.

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