Daily Health Headlines

Zika Connection to Rare Nerve Disorder Bolstered by Study

👤by Dennis Thompson 0 comments 🕔Thursday, October 6th, 2016

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- In a new report, an international team of researchers said it has developed the strongest evidence to date that Zika virus can cause a rare nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Neurologists from Johns Hopkins University working with researchers at six hospitals in Colombia said they detected Zika virus in the body fluids of a group of people suffering symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Guillain-Barre is a disorder that causes potentially life-threatening muscle weakness when the immune system attacks the nerves, according to background information with the study.

"This is the first solid evidence that the virus is present in patients with Guillain-Barre," said senior researcher Dr. Carlos Pardo, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. "In a large population from multiple centers affected by Zika outbreaks, we were able to detect and culture the virus that was affecting those patients."

The study was published Oct. 5 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

At least 14 patients cited in the study were diagnosed with both Zika infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome using the highest-level tests available for both illnesses, said Dr. Jennifer Frontera, a neurologist with the Cleveland Clinic. She is co-author of an accompanying editorial.

Zika is the first mosquito-borne virus known to cause terrible birth defects, most of them brain-related. In the average person, however, the virus generally causes either mild symptoms or none at all.

Because of the potential for birth defects, public health workers have placed special emphasis on protecting pregnant women from the virus.

However, there has also been an increase in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome within South American countries hit hardest by Zika, prompting public health officials to draw a tentative link between the two.

Guillain-Barre is rare, normally afflicting about one person in 100,000, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. But when Zika struck French Polynesia several years ago, about one in 4,000 people infected with the virus also developed Guillain-Barre, Pardo said.

"There was an overwhelming increase in the number of cases of Guillain-Barre" in Colombia early in 2016, right about the time of that country's Zika outbreaks, Pardo said. "It went from one or two cases a year to 10 to 15 cases a week. That was very striking."

People with Guillain-Barre experience muscle weakness that can range from slight weakness and tingling in the legs all the way up to full paralysis requiring a ventilator, Frontera said.

"The vast majority of people will improve from Guillain-Barre over time, but it can be very serious," she said.

To bring more light to this potential connection, Pardo and his colleagues evaluated 68 patients with Guillain-Barre syndrome at Colombian hospitals. They performed tests on 42 of the patients to detect the presence of Zika virus.

Using the most advanced genetic test available for the virus, researchers determined that 17 patients tested positive for Zika in their urine.

Another 18 patients also displayed potential evidence of Zika infection, the researchers noted. However, Frontera said this evidence also could point to dengue or yellow fever infections, since these viruses are from the same family as Zika.

The research team went on to confirm Guillain-Barre syndrome in 14 of the patients with genetically validated Zika infection. The researchers used nerve conduction exams that are critical to accurately diagnose the neurological disorder, Frontera said.

Guillain-Barre has been linked to other viral and bacterial infections, including campylobacter, influenza, yellow fever and Epstein-Barr virus, Frontera said.

The researchers said that almost one-half of study participants complained of neurologic symptoms within four days of the onset of Zika symptoms. That's an unusually fast response compared with others who develop Guillain-Barre symptoms following infections from other viruses, the study authors said.

Zika and these other infectious agents could be creating a condition called "molecular mimicry" to provoke an attack on the nervous system by the immune system, Pardo and Frontera said.

Zika proteins may share some similarities to nerve cells in the body, or to the fatty white substance called myelin that sheaths nerve cells, Frontera said.

So, antibodies created to attack Zika might become confused and wind up attacking the nervous system, she said.

It's also possible that Zika is somehow attacking nerve cells directly, Frontera added.

Doctors typically treat Guillain-Barre by exchanging the patient's plasma or infusing immunoglobulin, an antibody, into their bloodstream. Both tactics aim to short-circuit the faulty immune system response, Pardo and Frontera said.

Article Credits / Source

Dennis Thompson / HealthDay

Dennis Thompson wrote this story for HealthDay. HealthDay provides up to the minute breaking health news. Click here to view this full article from HealthDay.

SOURCES: Carlos Pardo, M.D., associate professor, neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; Jennifer Frontera, M.D., neurologist, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland; Oct. 5, 2016, New England Journal of Medicine

View More Articles From Dennis Thompson 🌎View Article Website

Sponsored Product

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

People who have trouble sleeping typically have low levels of melatonin, so melatonin supplements seem like a logical fix for insomnia. There is a high demand for sleep aids, especially in the U.S. The National Health Interview Survey done in 2002, and again in 2007, found 1.6 million US adults were using complementary and alternative sleep aids for insomnia. Lunar Sleep was a top choice. Use Promo Code: Sleep2014 and only pay $1.95 S&H.

Get Lunar Sleep for $1.95

More Infectious Disease Articles

FDA Scientists Develop Mouse Model for Zika Research

FDA Scientists Develop Mouse Model for Zika Research0

FRIDAY, Nov. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A mouse strain developed by U.S. government scientists could help speed up research into vaccines and treatments for the Zika virus, researchers report. Newborn mice of the new strain created by U.S. ...

'Superbug' Common Among N.C. Hog Workers, Study Says

'Superbug' Common Among N.C. Hog Workers, Study Says0

FRIDAY, Nov. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Some workers at hog production facilities in the United States have skin infections from drug-resistant "superbugs," researchers report. Hogs are given antibiotics to speed their growth. But, overuse of ...

Bagged Salads May Be Fertile Ground for Bacteria

Bagged Salads May Be Fertile Ground for Bacteria0

FRIDAY, Nov. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Prepackaged salads may promote the growth of salmonella bacteria, researchers report. They found that even slight damage to leaves in salad bags released juices that encouraged the spread of ...

Zika No Longer 'Global Health Emergency,' WHO Says

Zika No Longer 'Global Health Emergency,' WHO Says0

FRIDAY, Nov. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that can cause severe birth defects in the infants of infected mothers, is no longer a "global health emergency," the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) declared ...

U.S. Hospitals Halve Catheter Infection Rates: Review

U.S. Hospitals Halve Catheter Infection Rates: Review0

MONDAY, Nov. 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. hospitals have cut in half the number of potentially deadly bloodstream infections linked to so-called central-line catheters since 2008. But, too many critically ill patients are still exposed to ...

View More Infectious Disease Articles

0 Comments

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest health news as it breaks!

Your information will not be shared with anyone!