Wednesday November 20, 2019

Evidence Mounting Zika Virus Causes Paralytic Disease

Researchers have discovered the strongest evidence yet linking the Zika virus to the paralytic illness Guillain-Barre syndrome

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FILE - Aedes aegypti mosquitos, potential carriers of the Zika virus, are photographed in a laboratory at the University of El Salvador, in San Salvador, Feb. 3, 2016. Researchers have found that during the height of the viral epidemic the incidence of the paralytic illness Guillain-Barre was 100 times the number of cases usually seen.(VOA)
  • Guillain-Barre is a normally rare condition that affects the peripheral nervous system, the nerves in arms and legs that are responsible for sensation and movement
  • Treatment involves filtering the blood to clean up the immunological factors that attack the peripheral nervous system, causing Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Barre syndrome typically appeared two to six weeks after people showed signs of infection with Zika, including fever, rash, headache and an eye infection called conjunctivitis

Washington, October 9, 2016: Researchers have discovered the strongest evidence yet linking the Zika virus to the paralytic illness Guillain-Barre syndrome. During the height of the viral epidemic the incidence of Guillain-Barre was 100 times the number of cases usually seen.

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Guillain-Barre is a normally rare condition that affects the peripheral nervous system, the nerves in arms and legs that are responsible for sensation and movement. The immune system attacks the fatty myelin coating of the nerves that protect and speed signals from the brain to the limbs.

Zika is in a family of viruses transmitted by mosquitoes called flavivirus, including dengue fever, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya.

Normally, there are between one and two cases of Guillian-Barre per hundred thousand adults according to Carlos Pardo, a neurologist and pathologist at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and lead author of a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But at the height of the Zika epidemic between January and June in Colombia, where the study was conducted, hospitals were seeing 10 to 15 cases per week.

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Pardo and colleagues from six institutions in the U.S., Central and South America established the first biological evidence connecting Zika to Guillain-Barre.

Investigators recruited 68 patients but because of research limitations were only able to look for evidence of Zika in 42 patients complaining of symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome. They underwent a genetics test looking for Zika RNA.

Seventeen – or 40 percent – of patients showed the virus’ genetic footprint.

Pardo’s team also conducted blood and urine tests on each patient. Investigators were able to culture the virus in the urine and found immune system-produced antibodies against Zika in the blood samples. The most positive results were in the urine.

FILE - A mother holds her son who is 4-months old and born with microcephaly, in Olinda, near Recife, Brazil, Feb. 11, 2016. Researcher Carlos Pardo says that during the height of the Zika outbreak the magnitude of the paralytic disease Guillain-Barre was similar to that of microcephaly but went underreported. (VOA)
FILE – A mother holds her son who is 4-months old and born with microcephaly, in Olinda, near Recife, Brazil, Feb. 11, 2016. Researcher Carlos Pardo says that during the height of the Zika outbreak the magnitude of the paralytic disease Guillain-Barre was similar to that of microcephaly but went underreported. (VOA)

Underreported

Occurrence of the disease was reported less in the media than microcephaly, another condition that linked to Zika. Microcephaly causes an abnormally small head and brain in newborns of mothers infected with Zika, leaving babies severely disabled.

Pardo says the magnitude of Guillain-Barre was similar to microcephaly.

Pardo says symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome typically appeared two to six weeks after people showed signs of infection with Zika, including fever, rash, headache and an eye infection called conjunctivitis.

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Pardo says it’s important to get to patients early because there are treatments that can lessen the severity of Guillain-Barre.

“If we are able to diagnose those patients in an early stage, we are able to provide them with an early treatment… that may prevent those neurological disabilities,” said Pardo.

For now, the Zika epidemic has settled down with the rainy season.

But Pardo is worried what will happen when the weather in the Americas gets warmer and drier at the end of the year.

“Subsequently, there’s going to be a higher risk for Guillian-Barre and obviously maternal infection and higher risk for pregnant mothers to have babies with microcephaly,” said Pardo.

Treatment involves filtering the blood to clean up the immunological factors that attack the peripheral nervous system, causing Guillain-Barre syndrome. (VOA)

Next Story

FDA Gives Market Authorisation For Zika Diagnostic Test

A Zika diagnostic test developed by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis was newly granted market authorisation

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Zika, Virus, Test
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia,Feb. 11, 2016. VOA

A Zika diagnostic test developed by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis was newly granted market authorisation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to a press release posted on the website of the university on Wednesday, using an antibody as well as other components to detect anti-Zika antibodies in the blood of people recently infected with the virus, the test can detect signs of Zika infection in serum samples within 12 weeks of infection, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Zika, Virus, Test
Scientists develop nanotechnology based test that detects Zika virus. Wikimedia Commons

The test is not meant to be used as a stand-alone proof of infection. The FDA recommends that the test be used only for people with symptoms of recent infection, as well as a history of living in or travelling to geographic regions where Zika circulates. Positive results should be confirmed in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Zika virus can cause babies to be born with devastating brain damage. But the signs of Zika infection in adults: rash, fever, headache and body aches, are nonspecific, so a pregnant woman who develops such symptoms can’t be sure if she has contracted Zika or something less risky for her fetus.

“This test, along with another that detects viral genetic material at very early stages of infection, will help women and their doctors make informed health-care decisions,” said Michael S. Diamond, a co-inventor of the technology that underlies the test and a professor of molecular microbiology and of pathology and immunology at Washington University.  (IANS)