From The Washington Post
November 7, 2017
Experts who work on the mosquito-borne West Nile virus have long known that it can cause serious neurological symptoms, such as memory problems and tremors, when it invades the brain and spinal cord.
Now researchers have found physical evidence of brain damage in patients years after their original infection, the first such documentation using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.
Brain scans revealed damage or shrinkage in different parts of the cerebral cortex, the outer part of the brain that handles higher-level abilities such as memory, attention and language.
“Those areas correlated exactly with what we were seeing on the neurological exams,” said Kristy Murray, an associate professor of pediatric tropical medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine and lead author of the study. “The thought is that the virus enters the brain and certain parts are more susceptible, and where those susceptibilities are is where we see the shrinkage occurring.”
Results of the study, which has not yet been published, were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The 10-year study of 262 West Nile patients is one of the largest assessments studying the long-term health problems associated with West Nile infections.