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Zika Update: New Zika-Associated Neurological Disease in Adults Confirmed

Aug 27, 2016 04:16 AM EDT
ZIka mosquito
Scientists have discovered that Zika virus could also cause sensory polyneuropathy in adults.
(Photo : Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers from the World Federation of Neurology's Work Group on Zika have reported the first confirmed case of a new Zika-associated neurological complication in adults.

The case, described in a paper published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences, occurred to a 62-year-old Honduran male patient who had traveled to Venezuela. The patient presented acute sensory polyneuropathy during the active phase of his ZIka infection.

"Our patient is the first confirmed Zika infection case report associated with an acute sensory polyneuropathy which began during the acute infectious phase," said Professor Marco T. Medina, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras, in a press release. "This suggests a probable direct viral inflammatory process affecting sensory nerves, but an autoimmune etiology cannot be definitely excluded."

Sensory polyneuropathy or peripheral neuropathy is a condition that occurs as a result of nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system, which is responsible of transmitting information between the central nervous system and the rest of the body.

Patients with sensory polyneuropathy may experience gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in the feet and hands; sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing or burning pain; extreme sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination and falling; muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected.

Additional symptoms may present if the autonomic nerves are also damaged. These symptoms include heat intolerance and altered sweating; bowel, bladder and digestive problems; changes in blood pressure, causing dizziness and lightheadedness.

Zika virus is known to cause microcephaly with brain malformations in infants. There are also high occurrences of outbreaks of GuGuillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) associated with Zika virus infections. Other neurological conditions linked to Zika infection include meningoencephalitis or acute myelitis.

"Zika virus infection has become a new emergent neuropathological agent with several neurological complications," said lead author Dr. John England, a Professor and Chair of Neurology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and Chair of the Work Group of Zika, in a statement.

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