Zika Virus May Cause A Host Of Birth Defects In Babies Exposed In Utero

By: Rachael Rettner and Karen Rowan
Published: 03/05/2016 02:00 PM EST on LiveScience

Pregnant women who become infected with Zika virus may be at risk for not only having a child with microcephaly, but also having a fetus with other serious health issues, including problems with the nervous system and even fetal death, according to a new study from Brazil.

The study — which provides some of the strongest evidence that Zika virus causes microcephaly — found that nearly one-third of women who had Zika infections during their pregnancy had an ultrasound that showed fetal abnormalities. These abnormalities included problems with growth, such as microcephaly (meaning an abnormally small head); problems with the placenta; and lesions in the brain or spine.

“Zika definitely causes the problems. We think microcephaly is only the tip of the iceberg,” said study co-author Dr. Karin Nielsen-Saines, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. [Zika Virus FAQs: Top Questions Answered]

Infants and fetuses in the study showed a variety of problems, including calcification (or hardening) of brain tissues, problems with the amniotic fluid and an abnormally small body size. There were two stillbirths in the study. Usually, viral infections don’t cause only one problem, and because of the array of problems now linked with Zika, the researchers suggest using the term congenitial Zika virus syndrome, Nielsen-Saines said. The new study provided a stronger type of evidence than previous studies of the effects of Zika during pregnancy because it was prospective, meaning that women who went to the clinic in Brazil were tested for Zika and were then followed over time (regardless of whether they tested positive for the virus).

In addition, the researchers tested the women for Zika by looking for the virus’s genetic material — which is more reliable than —> Read More