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Zika Virus Update: Researchers Found Increasing Evidence Linking Zika and Rare Nerve Disorder in Adults

Oct 07, 2016 09:00 AM EDT

Researchers have been establishing a link between the recent zika virus epidemic and the sudden rise of reported Guillain-Barre syndrome cases. However, researchers were only able to come up with anecdotal evidences to prove the link. Furthermore, the link between the two diseases was only based on the increasing cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome after the zika virus spread throughout Columbia and other countries.

Now, an international team of researchers claims that they have found the strongest evidence yet to prove the connection between zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Their study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that about 10 to 15 cases of Guillain-Barre were being reported in Colombia every week during the height of Zika epidemic between January and June. Normally, Guillain-Barre syndrome only affects about one to two per hundred of thousands adult.

In order to prove that zika virus causes Guillain-Barre syndrome, the researchers 68 patients with the nerve disorder confined at six different hospitals in Colombia this year. Because definitive testing for zika virus is only effective up to one week after the infection, only 42 out of the 68 participants underwent laboratory test for the virus. Among the 42, 40 percent or 17 tested positive for zika virus. Additionally, 18 of the patients also showed signs of zika infections. Using nerve conduction exams, the researchers confirmed that 14 of the patients who tested positive for zika have Guillain-Barre syndrome.

"The fact that we found Zika infection in those patients is good evidence that Zika may contribute to development of the disease," said Beatriz Parra, a researchers at Universidad del Valle in Colombia and one of the authors of the study, in a report from Vice News.

The researchers noted that their findings might be enough to support the connection between zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome. However, additional research is needed to confirm the claim that zika infections can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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