Zika Virus Linked With Stillbirth & Tissue Damage in Foetus

Zika virus might be linked with stillbirth, according to a new report published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

aedes mosquito
Aedes mosquito, the vector of the Zika virus.

A woman from Brazil who was infected with the Zika virus is said to have given birth to a stillborn baby. The latter also showed signs of other complications. Given the current concerns relating to the Zika epidemic, this case is being taken into consideration, and scientists have investigated the matter.

Zika virus has previously been associated with microcephaly which is a neurodevelopmental condition whereby the affected person has a smaller head size; it might be congenital as in the case of babies whose mothers were infected with the virus or it might develop during the early years after birth. Many such cases (the former) have been reported in Brazil since last year such that it came to a point during the epidemic that the authorities declared an emergency state whereby the government recommended couples not to have babies because of the risks entailed.

A baby with microcephaly.
A baby with microcephaly.

As for the new case, examining the stillborn baby showed that tissues outside of his central nervous system had been damaged; the foetus had an abnormal level of fluids.

Otherwise, the woman is said to have had a normal pregnancy for the first three months. However, an ultrasound result showed that the weight of the foetus was much less than the normal weight at around her 18th week. It was also found that he had an abnormally-small head, with missing brain parts. At the 30th week, the doctors were expecting the foetus to have several congenital conditions. Their fears were confirmed in the worst of ways by the 32nd week when an ultrasound showed the baby had died. Following this, the presence of the virus in the foetus was confirmed. It was later discovered that it had joint deformities.

These findings are considered alarming because they might be suggesting that the virus can cause severe damage to foetuses, ultimately resulting in stillbirths, says study author Dr. Albert Ko, chair of the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.

But, since this is a single case, more studies will have to be conducted to determine whether Zika virus is actually causing the tissue damage.

This would be the first virus transmitted by mosquitoes to be linked with neurological effects in the foetus of an infected woman, says Dr. Richard Temes, who was not involved in the study, and who is the director at the Center for Neurocritical Care at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York.

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