ZIka Update: Zika Virus Linked to Severe Joint Deformities in Newborns

Aug 10, 2016 05:35 AM EDT

A new study in Brazil revealed a possible link between Zika Virus and rare joint deformities in newborns, suggesting that the Zika virus syndrome has more negative effect on babies that will become more apparent as they grow older.

The study, published in the journal BMJ, showed that Congenital Zika syndrome should be added to the differential diagnosis of congenital infections and arthrogryposis, a severe condition characterized by problems with joint movements and muscle weakness. In this condition, the joint is often in an abnormal curved position.

"As opposed to linking Zika just to microcephaly there is a whole spectrum which they are now referring to as the [congenital] Zika syndrome, within which is included microcephaly but it is not limited to microcephaly," said Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and not part of the study, told the Guardian. "This [research] is just a very good example of the broadening spectrum of the abnormalities that can occur in children,"

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For the study, the researchers followed up two previous report linking Zika with arthrogryposis. The report involves seven children with arthrogryposis who were diagnosed with congenital infection presumable caused by the Zika virus during the Brazilian microcephaly epidemic last autumn of 2015.

Using brain imaging, researchers observed that all seven children presented malformations of cortical development, calcium build-up in the cortex and subcortical white matter, ventriculomegaly, reduced brain volume and hypoplasia of the brain stem and cerebellum.

Six of the children were diagnosed with microcephaly, while all of them presented arthrogryposis. Arthrogryposis was present in the legs of one child, while the remaining six have it on their arms and legs.

The researchers ruled out other possible causes of microcephaly, including HIV, syphilis and rubella, suggesting that the likely cause is Zika virus, Furthermore, arthrogryposis is an extremely rare condition and it happened in seven children in the region and time as the Zika outbreak, strengthening the connection between the two.

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