Zika-linked birth defects more severe than previously thought: Researchers

Dec 20, 2016 17:03 IST

Researchers have found that Zika-linked abnormalities, that occur in human fetuses, are more severe than previously thought and other birth defects are more common than microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with very small heads.

The findings of the research were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December 2016.

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Key Findings

•  Microcephaly is not the most common congenital defect from the Zika virus as per Karin Nielsen, senior author of the study and Professor at David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.
•  However, the absence of this condition does not mean that the baby will be free of birth defects as there are problems that are not apparent at birth and such difficulties may not be evident until the child attains the age of six months.
•  The damage during fetal development from the mosquito-borne virus can occur throughout pregnancy.
•  Zika infection during pregnancy is associated with fetal death, fetal growth restriction and a spectrum of central nervous system abnormalities.
•  42 percent of infants, born to the Zika-infected mothers, were found to have microcephaly, brain lesions, or brain calcifications in imaging studies, lesions in the retina, deafness, feeding difficulties, and other complications.

The Study
•  The study was based on a sample size of 345 women who were enrolled from September 2015 through May 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
•  The researchers evaluated 125 women infected with Zika and 61 who were not infected with the virus and had given birth by July 2016.
•  There were nine fetal deaths among women with Zika infection during pregnancy, five of those in the first trimester.
•  Fetal deaths or abnormalities in the infants were present in 46 percent of Zika-positive women, contrasted with 11.5 percent of Zika-negative women.


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