Researchers are suggesting the term “congenital Zika syndrome” to describe many birth disabilities in the fetal brain, according to a new study.
A particular trait caused by Zika is microcephaly, which is an underdeveloped brain and skull.
Researchers studied 11 Zika-infected babies in Brazil, which is the epicenter of the epidemic. Apparently, microcephaly is only one of multiple brain injuries caused by the virus.
In the study, the scientists used the brain scans of three infants who passed away and eight living babies infected by the virus. They found lesions and excess fluids in the brain, along with an underdeveloped cerebellum caused by the absence of cerebral folds. This lack caused dysfunctional voluntary and involuntary muscle contractions.
Dr. Amilcar Tanuri is the senior researcher of the study and he’s the head of the Molecular Virology Laboratory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He explained how microcephaly develops by saying, “Zika virus can directly kill neural cells as well as alter their differentiation pathway, making the fetal brain smaller by the end of pregnancy.”
He added, “However, it is not solely microcephaly we see. We can find other alterations that make us think of this as a congenital syndrome associated with Zika infection.”
This virus is the first of its kind to result in distressing congenital disabilities. Unfortunately, thousands of babies have had Zika-linked microcephaly in Brazil since the outbreak from South America.
As of September 28, 59 cases have been identified in South Florida, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers are now discovering other sources of infection, in particular through sexual transmission.
In this new study, the Brazilian researchers analyzed women with the Zika infection diagnosed during pregnancy. They included ultrasound exams that found brain defects developing in unborn babies.
Out of the 11 mothers, 3 of their children died within 48 hours of delivery while the rest of the infants were observed for six months.
They found significant neurological impairments and brain damage in all the babies. Through the analysis, the scientists found Zika tissues in both the child and the mother while ruling out all other causes of microcephaly.
With the risk of the Zika syndrome, mothers who might’ve contracted the virus should take regular ultrasounds to identify if their children have the symptoms.