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Zika Infection linked to Temporary Paralysis, Study Finds

Update Date: Mar 01, 2016 09:35 AM EST

The Zika virus has been linked to temporary paralysis, a new study is reporting.

For this study, the researchers examined Zika cases that occurred during an outbreak two years ago in Tahiti, the largest island in the French Polynesia. They looked at the blood samples taken from 42 adults who had been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome from 2013 to 2014 and compared them to a group of 98 adults who did not have symptoms of Guillain-Barré or Zika but were being treated for another illness at the same hospital.

Guillain-Barré is a condition, which can be triggered by a bacterial or viral infection that causes the immune system to attack the nerves, leading to symptoms such as weakness, tingling in the limbs and paralysis. In rare cases, the syndrome can lead to death. The researchers noted that none of the patients from the Tahiti outbreak died.

The researchers found that in the Guillain-Barré group, nearly every single patient had signs of a previous Zika infection. In the non-Guillain-Barre group, the researchers found that about half of them were previously infected with Zika.

"The evidence that links Zika virus with Guillain-Barre syndrome is now substantially more compelling," Peter Barlow, an infectious disease expert at Edinburgh Napier University, commented reported by FOX News. Barlow was not involved with this research.

"This is a compelling paper that provides a good deal of objective data to suggest an epidemiological link between recent Zika infection and increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome," Dr. Kenneth C. Gorson, professor of neurology at Tufts School of Medicine, who was also not involved with the study, said via the New York Times.

Based on the data, the researchers estimated that 24 out of 100,000 cases of Zika could possibly lead to a Guillain-Barré diagnosis. This new finding is alarming since the average rate of Guillain-Barré diagnosed after other infections, such as the flu and dengue fever, is about one to two per 100,000 cases.

Health officials will be examining this link further while other teams are still working on studies to see if a Zika infection causes microcephaly, a birth defect that occurs when an infant is born with a brain and head that have not fully developed.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is still spreading throughout the central and South Americas. The World Health Organization (WHO) expects the virus to spread throughout the Americas with the exception of Canada and Chile once the weather gets warmer.

The study was published in the journal, The Lancet.

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