If zika didn’t seem scary enough in the media, there is new data showing that there could be a new neurological complication of infection with the Zika virus.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus linked to microcephaly and other neurological problems in newborns of affected mothers directly infects the brain progenitor cells destined to become neurons. The team of researchers used a strain of Zika currently impacting the Americas, and found that the virus infects about 20 percent of cells on average, evades immune system detection, and continues to replicate for weeks.
The Zika virus infects a type of neural stem cell that gives rise to the brain’s cerebral cortex, Johns Hopkins and Florida State researchers have found. On laboratory dishes, these stem cells were found to be havens for viral reproduction, resulting in cell death and/or disruption of cell growth. While this study does not prove the direct link between Zika and microcephaly, it does pinpoint where the virus may be doing the most damage.