A study conducted in the Brazilian city of Recife revealed new details about the impact of the Zika virus on the human brain. It turns out that in addition to microcephaly syndrome and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease may be associated with a dangerous autoimmune disorder – acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.
From December 2014 to June 2015 in a hospital for rehabilitation treatment in Recife were patients admitted with symptoms of Zika fever. From six of these, tests confirmed the autoimmune damage to the nervous system, which developed within one to two weeks.
Four patients were diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, and examination of other two showed acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. The disease is associated with inflammation of the brain and meninges, which cause a loss of myelin – the protective covering that surrounds nerve fibers.
Damage to the myelin leads to symptoms resembling multiple sclerosis: weakness, fatigue, impaired coordination of movements, problems with eyes, memory and thinking.
Dr. Maria Lucia Brito Ferreira, linking Zika virus with autoimmune lesions of the brain, says that not all undergone fever patients are at risk, but now doctors have to consider that possibility.
Zika virus began to spread rapidly in South and North America in May 2015. The epidemic outbreaks occurred in northeast Brazil and then migrated to dozens of other countries. The disease is associated with an increased risk of microcephaly in newborns whose mothers were infected during pregnancy.
Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes genus Aedes aegypti, to deal with which Latin American countries today use huge financial and human resources.
In 2016, the WHO declared the Zika virus global threat to public health, but the vaccine trial promises to be prepared by the scientific community only in September.