Zika virus and brain cellsSaturday, September 17, 2016
The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly and other neurological disorders. As research on this debilitating virus continues, there is new evidence to suggest that Zika may affect brain cells.
New research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in the United States suggests that certain adult brain cells may be vulnerable to infection as well. Among these are populations of cells that serve to replace lost or damaged neurons throughout adulthood, and are also thought to be critical to learning and memory.
Although more research is needed to determine if this damage has long-term biological implications or the potential to affect behaviour, the findings suggest the possibility that the Zika virus, which has become widespread in Central and South America over the past eight months, may be more harmful than previously believed. The new findings were published in American online journals Cell Stem and The Newswire from Rockefeller University on August 18, 2016.
Professor Sujan Shresta at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology has said that Zika is a complex disease which can be catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms. Current evidence from the University of California San Diego Health Sciences News suggests that Zika targets neural progenitor cells, leading to loss of these cells and to reduced brain volume. This closely mirrors what is seen in microcephaly — a developmental condition linked to Zika infection in developing foetuses that results in a smaller-than-normal head and a wide variety of developmental disabilities.
The truth is that there is still a lot we do not know about Zika.
What we do know so far is that Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with small heads; as well as Guillain BarrÃ¨ Syndrome, a neurological disorder resulting in weakness of various muscle groups among other neurological disorders. We are still unsure of the number of infected pregnant women who will have babies with microcephaly, but based on research and experience from other countries it is estimated that up to10 per cent of pregnant women exposed to the Zika virus may have a child with microcephaly.
In a bid to manage this potential reality, the Ministry of Health will establish a fund of $50 million to support interventions for families and babies born with microcephaly. The fund will assist in carrying out activities that include support for high-risk clinics and psychosocial interventions. The initiative stems from the concern about the impact on mothers and families of children born with microcephaly and other neurological disorders.
The Ministry of Health continues to increase its clinical capacity through training of healthcare professionals, infrastructure upgrades, increased human resources and acquisition of equipment, supplies and medication to deal with Zika and its associated complications including Guillain Barrè Syndrome.
For more information, visit the Ministry of Health’s website at moh.gov.jm and like and follow us on
www.facebook.com/themohgovjm; https://twitter.com/themohgovjm; https://instagram.com/themohgovjm.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login