Zika Virus: Study Reveals Link with Birth Defects


A Brazilian study has revealed a possible link between Zika virus and birth defects after scientists confirmed the presence of Zika in amniotic fluid in two women.  The women, aged 27 and 35, had shown symptoms of Zika infections- fever, muscle pain and skin rashes.

According to Lancet Infectious Disease Journal , the virus had crossed the barrier of the placenta – which guards the unborn child from infections. The women underwent amniocentesis, in which doctor took samples of womb-fluid for laboratory tests. There was a presence of the Zika virus but none of dengue, chikungunya or any other infection.

Ultra sound report showed the presence of microcephaly – a birth defect which causes small shaped head and underdeveloped brain in newborns.

“Previous studies have identified Zika virus in the saliva, breast milk and urine of mothers and their newborn babies, after having given birth. This study reports details of the Zika virus being identified directly in the amniotic fluid of a woman during her pregnancy, suggesting that the virus could cross the placental barrier and potentially infect the foetus,” said Dr Ana de Filippis of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro, in a report by The Guardian.

This finding isn’t a concrete proof and it has not been proven that Zika is indeed triggering microcephaly but this can serve as a basis of a full-blown study.

The northeastern part of Brazil is suffering the major and worst cases of the Zika infections. More than 4000 cases have been reported with 508 cases of microcephaly. The Health Ministry revealed 41 cases which has shown links to Zika infection. While in neighbouring Colombia, around 5000 cases of pregnant women infected with the Zika virus have been reported so far.

Leading virologist Leslie Lobel said that health authorities should concentrate on “prevention of infectious diseases” rather than curing outbreaks.

BBC reported that the virus seems similar to the Zika virus that had spread across French Polynesia in 2013.

“Even if all these data strongly suggest that Zika virus can cause microcephaly, the number of microcephaly cases related to Zika virus is still unknown.” said Prof Didier Musso from the emerging infectious diseases unit at the Institut Louis Malardé in French Polynesia.

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