Another study from US and Brazilian researchers found Zika infection during pregnancy is likely connected to grave outcomes for the babies. Anecdotal evidence has suggested a link to microcephaly, a condition where a child is born with an abnormally small head as a result of incomplete brain development.
The mosquito-borne virus infects a kind of neural stem cell that goes on to form the cerebral cortex, the brain’s outer layer responsible for intellectual capabilities and higher mental functions, the study showed.
For the study, Nielsen-Saines and colleagues from Brazil identified 88 women in the Rio de Janeiro area who had symptoms of Zika when they were pregnant.
Worldwide health officials are examining the connection between pregnant women getting the virus and a birth defect called microcephaly in their newborn infants. Researchers have also found evidence of Zika in the brains of a handful of babies with microcephaly who died shortly after birth.
Three U.S. universities that make up a task force had set out to search for a potential biological link showing the way that the virus could cause fetuses’ normal brain development to be blocked. But he stressed that his study does not prove that Zika causes microcephaly, nor that it works by that route.
The group is expecting to receive samples any day, and the first step will be to grow the virus and begin studying infection from placenta to fetus.
Thailand’s health ministry urged the public not to panic, saying there have been an average of five cases per year since 2012 with no outbreaks. But scientists are alarmed by indications that when it infects a pregnant woman, her baby may be born with a small head and a brain that hasn’t developed properly. On laboratory dishes, these stem cells were found to be havens for viral reproduction, resulting in cell death and/or disruption of cell growth. It’s based on the observation that the number of cases of microcephaly appear to have increased in Brazil since the virus became epidemic in that country. The symptoms typically start within 12 days of an infection, and the virus then stays in the blood for about a week.
Officials in San Francisco reported a case Thursday, a day after Napa County officials reported a pregnant woman had the virus.
Health officials have hastened to note, reports the Chronicle, that the unnamed resident contracted the virus while traveling in Central America and has since fully recovered.
The study highlighted that women between their 6th and 35th week of pregnancy are especially susceptible to the Zika virus.