Monkey study suggests Zika infection in infancy could cause brain damage

From Stat
April 4, 2018

A new study in primates raises the possibility that children infected with the Zika virus during infancy could be at risk of experiencing brain damage.

Zika is known to destroy developing brain tissue when it infects a fetus in the womb. Scientists know less — next to nothing, essentially — about how the virus might affect the brain of an infant infected after birth.

In the new study, scientists infected rhesus macaques with Zika virus at the age of about 1 month — which corresponds to about 3 months of age in a child. The macaques showed troubling brain and behavioral changes.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, are worrisome, admitted Dr. Karin Nielsen-Saines, who was not involved in the research.

Nielsen-Saines, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies the Zika virus, said during the height of the Zika outbreak in 2016 she and colleagues were often asked if it was safe to take a baby to areas where Zika was transmitting.

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