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Zika virus now linked to stillbirth, congenital defects

Zika may also lead to hydrops fetalis, hydranencephaly, and foetal demise, says a case study.

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: In a new development, a case study suggest that Zika virus may cause stillbirths and congenital defects in infants of mothers who become contracted the virus.

Researchers said the Zika virus, which is being linked to microcephaly, may also lead to hydrops fetalis (abnormal accumulation of fluid in foetal compartments), hydranencephaly (almost complete loss of brain tissue), and foetal demise (stillbirth).

Researchers from the US examined the case of a 20-year-old pregnant Brazilian woman who was infected with the Zika virus and delivered a stillborn baby in January.

The patient started off with a normal pregnancy that quickly changed during the course of the 18th week of pregnancy. An ultrasound examination revealed that the foetus' weight was well below where it should have been at that point.

The woman did not report any of the symptoms commonly associated with Zika (rash, fever, or body aches) prior to or during the early stages or her pregnancy, the researchers noted.

By the 30th week of the pregnancy, the foetus showed a range of birth defects and the researchers confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the foetus.

"These finding raise concerns that the virus may cause severe damage to foetuses leading to stillbirths and may be associated with effects other than those seen in the central nervous system," said lead researchers Albert Ko from the University of Yale in the US.

It is the first report to indicate a possible association of congenital Zika virus and damage to tissues outside the central nervous system.

Since Zika appeared in Brazil, the virus has spread rapidly throughout much of Latin America and into the Caribbean. Several cases have also been confirmed in the US.

Until now, Zika has already been lined to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby has an abnormally small skull and underdeveloped brain.

The researchers said that since it is likely that large numbers of pregnant women in Brazil and beyond will be exposed to the same Zika strain, further investigations are needed to determine the risk of stillbirth and the other adverse outcomes.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

(With Agency inputs)

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