A new study suggests that the Zika virus can also cause Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Zika is so far linked to cause severe birth defects. There is no definitive scientific proof yet that Zika causes microcephaly, but there sudden rise in cases is strongly suggesting the link. Now there is potentially a second illness the Zika virus causes.
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Analysis of blood samples from 42 patients diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) during the Zika virus outbreak in French Polynesia provides the first evidence that Zika virus might cause GBS, a severe neurological disorder, according to new research published in The Lancet today. Based on the data from French Polynesia, 24 of 100,000 people infected with Zika virus would develop GBS.
"This is the first study to look at a large number of patients who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome following Zika virus infection and provide evidence that Zika virus can cause GBS," says lead author Professor Arnaud Fontanet from the Institut Pasteur, Paris, France. "Most of the patients with GBS reported they had experienced symptoms of Zika virus infection on average 6 days before any neurological symptoms, and all carried Zika virus antibodies."
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder which affects the immune and nervous systems, and is the leading cause of non-trauma related paralysis. Symptoms develop rapidly and include weakness in the legs and arms, muscle weakness and pain. In about 20-30% of cases, severe GBS can lead to respiratory failure, and about 5% of patients die.
The full report has been published on The Lancet here.
Since the first reports of Zika virus infection in Brazil in early 2015, its rapid spread has resulted in an estimated 1·5 million cases with 4 million predicted across the continent by the end of the year, and the declaration by the World Health Organization of a public health emergency of international concern.
The Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. People with Zika virus disease usually have symptoms that can include mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache.
These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days. There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available. The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites. The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
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Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys.