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New study shows zika could affect adult brains

Published:Friday | August 19, 2016 | 8:12 PM

A new study has raised the possibility that the brains of adults could be affected by the Zika virus.

News agency Reuters says the findings published yesterday in the journal Cell Stem Cell, are the first to look at whether Zika can attack the same kinds of cells in adult mice that they do in fetal mice.

In the study US researchers found that Zika can attack special populations of brain cells in adult mice in the part of the brain involved in learning and memory, raising new questions about how the virus may be impacting millions of adults who have been infected with the virus.

Experts are cautioning that the findings are preliminary and may not have any correlation to how Zika impacts human brain function, but they suggest the need for follow-up research.

Health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.

Zika has already been shown to attack fetal brain cells known as neural progenitor cells.

The death of these cells is what disrupts brain development and leads to the severe birth defects seen in babies whose mothers were infected with Zika during pregnancy.

The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,600 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.