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Study Finds Links Between Zika Virus and Birth Defects

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Pregnant women may need to worry about more than microcephaly

A new study in Brazil revealed that pregnant women infected with Zika virus do have to worry about microcephaly, and likely much more.

Researchers studied 88 pregnant women in Rio de Janerio, Brazil to examine what effects, if any, Zika virus might have on fetuses. Of the 88 women in the study, 82 percent (72) tested positive for Zika virus.

Researchers performed ultrasounds on 42 of the 72 women who tested positive for Zika, and also performed ultrasounds on the 16 women who were not infected with Zika.

Ultrasounds detected fetal abnormalities in 12 of the 42 Zika-positive women, but did not detect any abnormalities in tests of the 16 Zika-negative women.

More than microcephaly

Fetal abnormalities discovered in the ultrasounds of Zika-positive women were not limited to microcephaly — a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected. The link between Zika and microcephaly has been the most widely speculated since the Zika epidemic arrived.

Along with 5 cases of microcephaly, researchers also discovered 7 cases where fetuses had lesions on the brain or spinal cord, and there were also findings of issues with central nervous system (CNS) development and placental insufficiency.

Mild symptoms, but grave outcomes

According the study, despite Zika virus producing mild clinical symptoms in most patients, infection during pregnancy can be linked to grave outcomes, including “fetal death, placental insufficiency, fetal growth restriction, and CNS injury.”

Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.

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