Study finds Zika virus may affect infants without microcephaly

As the Zika virus continues to spread, popping up across North America and other parts of the globe, clinicians have looked for tell-tale signs that infants may be affected by the virus, which can cause significant neurological damage and birth defects in babies born to Zika-positive mothers. So far, the primary symptom is believed to have been microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with smaller-than-normal heads, but new research detailed in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, suggests the initial focus on microcephaly may be too narrow a marker for determining which infants are impacted by Zika.

In reviewing more than 600 cases of babies born to mothers with Zika, the researchers found "rashes in the third trimester of pregnancy were associated with brain abnormalities despite normal sized heads," the paper reads. These infants showed no signs of obvious birth defect, but their brain scans showed they had characteristics comparable to those with congenital Zika virus infection. Additionally, the researchers suggest maternal history of a rash caused by Zika virus could be predictive of Zika virus congenital syndrome, even in cases where no apparent birth defect occurs.

"Because many definite or probable cases present normal head circumference values and their mothers do not report having a rash, screening criteria must be revised in order to detect all affected newborn babies," the authors concluded.

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