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Zika may attack myelin

Monday April 11th, 2016

The Zika virus may attack the brain's myelin, causing a temporary illness similar to multiple sclerosis, a conference heard last night.

Doctors from Brazil reported on two cases of patients developing acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

Brain scans show damage to the white matter of the patients' brains.

The two were among six patients to suffer neurological symptoms associated with the Zika virus, the doctors told the conference of the American Academy of Neurology in Vancouver, Canada.

Four patients developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, they reported.

Five of the patients still had problems with motor functioning when they left hospital, they said.

Dr Brito Ferreira, from Restoration Hospital, Recife, Brazil, said: “This doesn’t mean that all people infected with Zika will experience these brain problems. Of those who have nervous system problems, most do not have brain symptoms.

“However, our study may shed light on possible lingering effects the virus may be associated with in the brain.”

Dr James Sejvar, from the Academy, said: “At present, it does not seem that ADEM cases are occurring at a similarly high incidence as the GBS cases, but these findings from Brazil suggest that clinicians should be vigilant for the possible occurrence of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis and other immune-mediated illnesses of the central nervous system."

He added: “Of course, the remaining question is ‘why’ – why does Zika virus appear to have this strong association with GBS and potentially other immune/inflammatory diseases of the nervous system? Hopefully, ongoing investigations of Zika virus and immune-mediated neurologic disease will shed additional light on this important question.”

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Flu & Viruses | North America | South America

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