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Zika Virus: Infants Exposed To The Virus May Develop Abnormalities In Spite Of Normal Assessment, Reports

Infants who had been exposed to the Zika virus and had abnormalities at birth are given a clean chart of test results by the second or third year of life, normally. However, in contrast to this, recent reports have revealed that infants who had clean and normal assessments at birth have developed abnormalities in vision and hearing and had subpar results in developmental screening, by the age of 2.

And this has become a cause for concern because, according to a recent study conducted in Rio de Janeiro, 216 babies who were exposed to the Zika virus during infancy were made to undergo neurodevelopmental testing, currently aged between 7 months to 2 years. The mothers of the selected infants/babies had related symptoms such as rash or fever. And, the study focused on babies born in the year 2015 and 2016 [1] .

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Upon conducting the study on the selected 216 children, about 71 per cent of them had normal assessments whereas the remaining 29 per cent had below-average scores in at least one element of neurological development. The study, published in the Journal Of Nature Medicine, considered cognitive performance, fine and gross motor skills, and expressive language for the analysis [2] .

One of the researchers of the study, Sarah B Mulkey a foetal-neonatal neurologist pointed out that high levels of risk were found related to vision and hearing, and also in the overall neurological development of a child. All these risks were directly linked to one significant aspect - how early the pregnancy was at the time the infants were exposed. The time at which the foetus was exposed to the virus and the period of the pregnancy are interlinked, in more clarity, the immature neurons are prone towards being attacked by the Zika virus; therefore causing the babies who were not born with microcephaly to be exposed to the risk of abnormalities [3] .

Taking up the findings of the study, it can be ascertained that, out of the 49 subjects who had abnormalities at birth 29 went on to have normal results in the 2nd or 3rd year of life. And, out of the 68 infants who had normal assessments at birth, 17 of them went to develop vision or hearing abnormalities or had below-average developmental testing by the age of 2[2] .

In conclusion, the researchers were unable to gather a specific understanding as to why the condition is developing in the later stages of the child's life. However, it does not state that the researchers have given up on finding a solution for the emerging dilemma and complication.

Dr Mulkey said, "This study adds to the growing body of research that argues in favour of ongoing follow-up for Zika-exposed children, even if their neurological exams were reassuring at birth. As Zika-exposed children approach school age, it's critical to better characterise the potential implications for the education system and public health,".

View Article References
  1. [1] Carvalho, F. H. C., Cordeiro, K. M., Peixoto, A. B., Tonni, G., Moron, A. F., Feitosa, F. E. L., ... & Araujo Junior, E. (2016). Associated ultrasonographic findings in fetuses with microcephaly because of suspected Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy. Prenatal diagnosis, 36(9), 882-887.
  2. [2] Mulkey, S. B., Vezina, G., Bulas, D. I., Khademian, Z., Blask, A., Kousa, Y., ... & DeBiasi, R. L. (2018). Neuroimaging findings in normocephalic newborns with intrauterine Zika virus exposure. Pediatric neurology, 78, 75-78.
  3. [3] Adebanjo, T., Godfred-Cato, S., Viens, L., Fischer, M., Staples, J. E., Kuhnert-Tallman, W., ... & Meaney-Delman, D. (2017). Update: interim guidance for the diagnosis, evaluation, and management of infants with possible congenital Zika virus infection—United States, October 2017. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 66(41), 1089.