Brain scans of Brazilian babies born with microcephaly reveal that Zika virus (ZIKV) may disrupt the development of the brain. The severe anomalies found in the babies' brains were observed through the CT scans of those whose mothers were believed to have had Zika virus infections while pregnant.
The link between neurological disorders and Zika virus is becoming stronger, not to mention, more mystifying by the minute. This is because of the widespread brain anomalies noted in people exposed to the infection despite experts not being able to confirm a link.
Imaging scans provide objective data that definitively identify if something is wrong in a particular body part such as the brain. While clinical signs and symptoms are valuable for diagnosis, it is with objective tools such as CT scans that experts are able to confirm abnormalities.
CT Scan Results: Zika Disrupts Brain Development
For the study, a group of international scientists performed CT scans on 23 infants who were born with microcephaly. The scans were done when the babies were between 3 days and 5 months old.
The scans showed that all the babies exhibited signs of calcifications within the brain, which suggests inflammation. Majority of the infants also had other problems in brain structures such as swelling, brain fold problems, underdeveloped brain parts and anomalies in the nerve fiber-protecting myelin.
The researchers also conducted numerous diagnostic tests on the babies' mothers to ascertain other potential reasons why their children developed the condition. They conducted tests for HIV, cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, parovirus and rubella. The results all turned out negative.
Worthy to note is that during their pregnancy, all the mothers experienced fever and rash, which are commonly observed in patients with Zika virus. The researchers then tested the spinal fluid of seven of the infants and found that it was positive for Zika virus antibodies.
The results of the study therefore suggest that "ZIKV is associated with a disruption in brain development rather than destruction of [the] brain," the authors write.
The authors, however, noted that the results are not conclusive and that it can also be found in infants with other congenital viral infections.
The Link Between Zika And Microcephaly
Zika virus is caused by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The recent outbreak started in May 2015 in Brazil, where there have been astounding numbers of babies born with microcephaly in Zika-affected regions.
The World Health Organization says that there are strong points suggesting a link between Zika and microcephaly. However, definitive evidence to confirm the association may take years to surface.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 6.