Zika Virus Found in Fetus With Severe Birth Defect
Doctors have found the Zika virus in the brain of a fetus with severe microcephaly, providing more strong evidence that the virus gets into the brains of developing babies and can damage them.
The New England Journal of Medicine has rushed publication of the report, which adds a big piece to the puzzle of whether and how the epidemic of Zika virus has caused a matching surge in birth defects in Brazil.
The case provides the elements needed to virtually catch the virus in the act: A pregnant women with a Zika-like illness who was living in Brazil, a developing fetus that suddenly stopped growing, clear brain damage in the fetus and, finally, the full genome of the virus found in the brain.
At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released details of its study of two newborns killed by microcephaly and two miscarriages in which evidence of Zika was found in the brains and placentas.
“To me that just confirms what I think many of us thought it was just a matter of time before we could confirm,” said Dr. Marjorie Treadwell, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study.
“I think the actual isolation of the virus in the brains strengthens the thought that the Zika virus is causing these cases of microcephaly.”
Tatiana Avsic Zupanc of University Medical Center in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and colleagues detailed the case of a woman who showed up with a troubled pregnancy in October of last year.