Research Suggests Zika Could Cause Long-Term Brain Issues

Research Suggests Zika Could Cause Long-Term Brain Issues
Science & Medicine

It is already known that Zika can tragically affect the lives of babies born to mothers infected with the virus. Now new research suggests that the virus may affect adult brains as well. [1]

Previously, it was thought that Zika was similar to the flu virus, in that unless the infected person was pregnant, it would pass within a few days. However, research on mice suggests that this may not be the case.

Researchers have infected several mice with an immune deficiency to the Zika virus. It was found that after giving the mice Zika, the virus affected the area of their brain that creates new brain cells. While scientists don’t yet know the implication of this, it could mean that this might cause long-term issues with cognitive function.

The NHS, or National Health Service in the United Kingdom, emphasizes that this research is preliminary and that we may not know more about how Zika infects the human brain until trials can be done on human subjects. [2]

“It’s a complex disease—it’s catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for,” stated Sujan Shresta, a professor at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology and an author on the study.

We currently know Zika can infect unborn children of mothers infected with the virus. A mother being infected with the virus can lead to a child developing microcephaly, a birth defect that causes the child’s head to be smaller than that of other children their age. However, this issue is not a cosmetic one solely, as it can also cause severe cognitive and physical disabilities and delays, which may lead some children to never develop beyond an infant.

This new research may be a stepping stone to help researchers understand why some people infected with Zika go on to develop Guillain-Barre (a disease which can cause paralysis) while other people recover without any extra complications.


[1] Cell Stem Cell

[2] NHS