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Zika Virus Can Affect Adult Brain Cells, Recent Study Shows

Update Date: Aug 19, 2016 01:13 PM EDT
Brazil Continues Battle Against Zika Virus Ahead Of Olympic Games
RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 02: Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz Institute on June 2, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Microcephaly is a birth defect linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus where infants are born with abnormally small heads. (Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The latest research on the Zika virus has established that the virus can cause not only severe birth defects but also the cases of Guillain-Barre syndromes in adults. The Guillain - Barre syndrome is a rare autoimmune disease, which can result in paralysis and even death.

In a study on mice, researchers have found that the virus affects adult brain cells, which are critical to memory and learning.

According to Joseph Gleeson, one of the co - authors of the study, and professor at Rockefeller University, this was a kind of surprise, reported The Blade. Previously, the Zika virus has been linked only to health concerns of pregnant women.

The Study was co-led by La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology researcher Sujan Shresta, along with Gleeson.

The scientists emphasize the fact that more research is needed and long term effects of the Zika virus is yet unknown. However, the damage caused by the virus in adult brains could lead to early onset of Alzheimer's disease, depression, and other learning difficulties.

William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, agreed that the findings are preliminary. But he also called it troubling.

According to Schaffner, with the help of this research, there's a possibility of further examination, as the infection is spreading at a rapid speed, despite the containing measures undertaken.

Notably, adults infected with ZIka Virus show almost no symptoms until it is too late. However, according to Shresta, the new findings can be used to deduce if a person is suffering from Zika infection or not.

"For most adults, we will be asymptomatic," said Shresta. "Eighty percent of us will never know we even had the infection. But in that 20 percent, one of the consequences could be these bad neuronal outcomes."

Thus, for now, the research suggests that public health efforts shouldn't focus only on preventing Zika infection in pregnant women but also on adults.


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