Close  

New report links Zika to paralyzing disease

/ 09:08 AM March 09, 2016
In this Feb. 24, 2016 photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitos are bred for Zika related testing at the dengue lab run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At a different lab on the island, CDC officials are breeding mosquitoes to determine if they are resistant to insecticides that Puerto Rico is using. (AP Photo/Danica Coto)

In this Feb. 24, 2016 photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitos are bred for Zika related testing at the dengue lab run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At a different lab on the island, CDC officials are breeding mosquitoes to determine if they are resistant to insecticides that Puerto Rico is using. AP

PARIS, France — Suspected of causing brain damage in babies and a rare neurological ailment in adults, the Zika virus was linked by researchers Tuesday to a third disorder: paralysis-causing myelitis.

French experts reported that a 15-year-old girl diagnosed on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe with acute myelitis in January had high levels of Zika in her cerebrospinal fluid, blood and urine.

ADVERTISEMENT

READ: Random Zika testing urgedGov’t says Filipinos should stay alert but calm amid Zika virus

“This is the first published case to offer proof of a link” between myelitis and the virus sweeping Latin America and the Caribbean, Annie Lannuzel of the University Hospital Center Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe told AFP.

FEATURED STORIES

The case had been described in a report published by The Lancet medical journal.

“Until recently, Zika was thought to cause benign infections in humans,” Lannuzel and a team wrote in the case report.

Instead, the “presence of Zika virus in the cerebrospinal fluid of our patient with acute myelitis suggests that this virus might be neurotropic” — something that attacks the nervous system.

The mosquito-borne virus usually causes mild symptoms in adults, with a low fever, headaches and joint pain, but the virus’ quick spread has caused alarm due to an observed association with more serious health problems.

There have been fewer than a handful of reported cases of sexual transmission.

Last week, scientists said they had found the first evidence of a biological link between Zika and microcephaly, which causes severe deformation of the brains of unborn babies.

Laboratory tests found that Zika targeted key cells involved in brain development in the womb and then destroyed or disabled them, they said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A separate study, also last week, offered evidence that Zika may cause Guillain-Barre, a rare condition in which the body’s immune system attacks a part of the nervous system that controls muscle strength.

Myelitis is an inflammation of the spinal cord which can affect limb movement and cause paralysis by interrupting communication between the spinal cord and the rest of the body.

‘Not benign’

Some patients are left with permanent damage.

There is no effective cure, and treatment general consists of cortisone injections in strong doses.

In the reported case, a teenaged girl was admitted to the Pointe-a-Pitre hospital with partial paralysis, limb weakness, and intense pain.

Nine days after the symptoms began, doctors found high levels of Zika virus in her blood, spinal fluid and urine, said a statement from France’s Inserm medical research institute.

Other potential causes of myelitis were ruled out, including shingles, chicken pox, herpes and other viruses.

The girl’s condition has since improved and she is now out of danger, said the statement.

“My message is that Zika does not only affect pregnant women, and is not necessarily benign,” said Lannuzel.

The team underlined this was a single case, and “future studies will be needed” to determine wether Zika does indeed cause myelitis.

Brazil has been hardest hit by the Zika outbreak, with some 1.5 million people infected and 641 confirmed cases of microcephaly in children born to women infected with the virus while pregnant.

According to the World Health Organization, 41 countries or territories have reported transmission of Zika within their borders since last year, and eight have reported an increase in Guillain-Barre cases.

A rise in microcephaly and other baby malformations has so far “only been reported in Brazil and French Polynesia”, according to the WHO, which has declared this a health emergency.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.

Read Next
LATEST STORIES
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Guillain-Barre, Microcephaly, Mosquitoes, myelitis, news, pregnancy, Zika
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2019 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.