A Lifetime With Zika? Scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Studying the Virus' Longterm Affects on the Brain

How does the Zika virus affect the adult brain? Sujan Shresta, a scientist at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology's Center for Infectious Disease, and her team of lab techs, shared their stunning insights with KGTV and ABC 10 after months of research. 

The scientists infected adult mice with the Zika virus in a controlled study. Through the experiment Shresta found that under certain circumstances, "Learning, [and] memory can be impacted, maybe not immediately but perhaps even decades later. Maybe the person will have an early onset of Alzheimer's or depression." 

As a result of the findings from their study, which was published this week, researchers are asking public health organizations to closely monitor Zika infections in all groups, not just pregnant women. 

"[A]s evidence mounts that the virus’ strong affinity for neural stem cells may also cause subtler central nervous system damage, the medical community fears that the current tragedy may give way to an equally horrific second act that will play out over years as exposed children who seemed unscathed at birth exhibit serious neurological ills as they age. Expectations range from auditory and visual problems to cognitive delays and seizure disorders," the Journal of the American Medical Association reported Wednesday. 

Edwin Trevathan, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, also noted that the likelihood of children with Zika experiencing lifelong brain damage is “close to 100 percent.”


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