Zika Update: Virus Linked to Permanent Eye Damage in Infants

Dec 01, 2016 04:43 AM EST

A new study from Brazil and Yale School of Public Health revealed a possible link between the dreaded zika virus and a condition that can result in permanent eye damage and blindness to infants.

The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, showed that infants exposed to zika virus during gestation were at risk of developing severe lesions in their retina, the posterior portion of the eye. This is the first time that researchers were able to establish a probable link between the virus and glaucoma.

"We identified the first case where zika virus appears to have affected the development of the anterior chamber or front portion of the eye during gestation and caused glaucoma after birth," said lbert Icksang Ko, M.D., professor at the Yale School of Public Health and co-author of the study, in a press release.

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The researchers identified the first case of zika-induced glaucoma during their investigations of the microcephaly epidemic in Salvador in Northeast Brazil. The patient was a three-month old boy who was exposed to the virus during gestation. The infant did not present any symptoms of glaucoma at the time of birth. However, the boy soon developed swelling, pain and tearing of the right eye. The researchers then diagnosed that the symptoms were indeed caused by glaucoma. With the help of local ophthalmologists, the researchers performed a trabeculectomy to alleviate the pressure within the eye.

Despite being the first known case of zika-induced glaucoma, the researchers recommend that healthcare providers who are responsible for treating zika should add glaucoma as another serious symptom of the viral infection. The researchers noted that additional studies are needed to better understand the mechanism behind zika-induced glaucoma.

The zika virus is till prevalent worldwide. In the United States alone, more than 4,000 travel-related cases of the infection have been reported. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed a total of 139 locally-acquired mosquito-borne cases.

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