Joint defects in infants linked to Zika infection

Congenital deformities in the joints and limbs of infants may be linked to Zika infection in the mother, according to a new study published in The BMJ.

For the study, researchers in Brazil monitored seven babies with suspected congenital Zika infections born with hip, knee, ankle, elbow, wrist and/or finger joint problems. The medical diagnosis of these defects is called arthrogyposis. Laboratory analysis revealed that the abnormalities did not originate in the joints themselves. Researchers suspect the origin of the defects is neurogenic, suggesting the Zika virus attacked nerve centers in the brain connected to muscles around the joints.

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While microcephaly — a neurologically debilitating condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads — is the most notable birth defect with a confirmed link to Zika infection, mounting research suggests it is simply a part of a continuum of defects that can be caused by the virus during pregnancy.

Jimmy Whitworth, MD, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC News that while the study didn't produce conclusive proof that Zika was the root cause of the joint defects, the evidence was compelling.

Dr. Whitworth said, "Studies suggest the current epidemic could go on for three or four years. We think there's going to be tens of thousands of babies who could be affected by Zika. Meeting their physical and psychosocial needs will be the real challenge."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Local Zika cases in Miami now at 21 — Hillary Clinton calls for Congress to act 
Americans approve of late-term abortions when Zika has harmed the fetus 
Americans still not worried about the Zika virus: 4 new poll findings

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