A map of Brazil showing cities with notified cases of microcephaly in Brazil up to Feb. 13, 2016. It’s adapted from Brazilian Ministry of Health. Recife, the centre of the Zika epidemic, is located on the coast in the densest part of the cities with confirmed cases. (Image credit: The BMJ 2016)


Further evidence is linking the Zika virus to fetal brain damage and now to serious neurological disease in adults.

In the first paper researchers performed brain scans on 23 babies born to mothers thought to be infected with Zika. The scans revealed a majority of the babies had severe brain malformation and scar-like lesions on the brain, with a buildup of calcium deposits.

In the second paper researchers described six people with neurological symptoms consistent with autoimmune disorders after contracting the Zika virus. “Though our study is small, it may provide evidence that in this case the virus has different effects on the brain than those identified in current studies,”said the author of the study Dr. Maria Lucia Brito Ferreira of Restoration Hospital in Recife, Brazil. However “much more research will need to be done to explore whether there is a causal link between Zika and these brain problems.”

The first research paper was published in the British Medical Journal on April 13, 2015.

The second research paper will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, April 15 to 21, 2016.

Names and affiliations of selected authors

E. F. Baerwald, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Alberta