Researchers connect Zika to another neurological complication

A team of researchers from LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, Honduras and Venezuela have discovered a link between Zika virus and sensory polyneuropathy, which causes decreased sensation in hands and feet and possible loss of reflexes.

The researchers' paper details the case of a 62-year-old man from Honduras who developed acute sensory polyneuropathy during an active phase of Zika virus infection. Sensory polyneuropathy develops from damage to the peripheral nervous system.

The condition improved over several months.

"Clinicians should be aware that Zika virus infection can also cause an acute infectious sensory polyneuropathy," said Marco T. Medina, MD, dean of the faculty of medical sciences at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras, first author of the paper and member of the World Federation of Neurology's Work Group on Zika. "Our patient is the first confirmed Zika infection case report associated with an acute sensory polyneuropathy which began during the acute infectious phase. This suggests a probable direct viral inflammatory process affecting sensory nerves, but an autoimmune etiology cannot be definitely excluded."

John England, MD, chair of the World Federation of Neurology's Work Group on Zika, called Zika virus a "new emergent neuropathological agent with several neurological complications." In addition to the new link between Zika and sensory polyneuropathy, the mosquito-borne virus has also been linked to infant neurological conditions, like microcephaly, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome and meningoencephalitis.

The team published its findings in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences.

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