Zika Virus: New Neurological Disorder Linked to Virus Attacks Central Nervous System
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Zika Virus: New Neurological Disorder Linked to Virus Attacks Central Nervous System

A team of Brazilian scientists recently discovered a new neurological disorder in adults infected with Zika virus. Transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, Zika virus is widely known to cause microcephaly in newborns of mothers infect by the virus. Further information has come out that reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome were also seen in infected adults in thirteen different countries. Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that destroys the myelin sheaths of peripheral nerves, causing progressive numbness and eventually paralysis of the limbs and respiratory muscles.

Dr. Maria Lucia Brito, a neurologist at the Restoration Hospital in Recife, Brazil, presented her findings of the study earlier this month at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Vancouver. The study showed within a small sample population that Zika can also cause an autoimmune disease that attacks nerves of the brain and spinal cord. ADEM, or acute disseminating encephalomyelitis, is similar to multiple sclerosis in that it attacks the myelin sheaths surrounding nerves in the central nervous system.

Brito’s study analyzed cases of 151 patients who were seen at her hospital between December 2014 and June 2015 for arbovirus infections, including Zika and dengue fever. Out of the 151, six patients developed autoimmune disorders, with four contracting Guillain-Barre Syndrome and two contracting ADEM. All six of the patients tested positive for Zika virus. While ADEM symptoms are typically temporary after infections and severe swelling in the brain and spinal cord, five patients reported motor dysfunction, one reported vision problems, and one reported cognitive deficiencies upon discharge from the hospital. The link between Zika and how it manifests in various neurological disorders is still unknown.

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