The health department’s spokesman, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, said that the woman was apparently exhibiting the symptoms of Zika in the final days of her stay in the Philippines, but that she was not diagnosed with the virus until she returned to the U.S.
Worldwide health officials are examining the connection between pregnant women getting the virus and a birth defect called microcephaly in their newborn infants.
The exams did uncover some abnormal brain development.
Results of the experiments, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Florida State University, and Emory University, are described online March 4 in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
More studies were being done to find out whether the mosquitoes could transmit zika in the wild. “It’s a very important piece in the puzzle”. Reports have documented traces of the virus in the brains of affected babies who died soon after birth, and in fetal brain tissue after abortion. But one key missing piece has been information about how it can slow or halt brain development in utero. “This study is just the beginning, and many more studies are needed to understand the relationship between Zika and microcephaly”, commented Amelia Pinto, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Saint Louis University.
“We are trying to fill the knowledge gap between the infection and potential neurological defects”, said first author Hengli Tang, virologist from the Florida State University in the US.
Damage to these cells, which eventually differentiate into mature neurons, would be consistent with the brain defects caused by microcephaly.
The study so far is tracking 88 otherwise healthy pregnant women who sought care for Zika-like symptoms at a clinic run by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janiero between September and last month.
“Most scientists have not had any doubt that the Zika virus is responsible for the brain injury”, he noted. But for almost a third of those infected by Zika, the imaging detected critical issues.
But he and other experts said many questions remain.
What they found was illuminating and also “extremely concerning”, according to the study. The outbreak has since spread to three dozen countries, primarily in the Americas.
The researchers say their experiments also suggest these highly-susceptible lab-grown cells could be used to screen for drugs that protect the cells or ease existing infections.