Zika virus infection could lead to acute disseminated encephalomyelitis that attacks the brain and spinal cord. Previously, the researchers have found a correlation between Zika virus and autoimmune disorder – Guillain-Barré syndrome, which attacks the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis. The new discovery – the connection of the virus with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) – reveals that Zika could provoke an attack on the central nervous system.
Some researchers have also reported the diagnoses of encephalitis and myelitis, nerve disorders, usually caused by direct infections in nerve cells, in the patients infected by Zika virus.
ADEM causes severe swelling in the brain and spinal cord, which in its turn damages myelin – a protective white coating surrounding nerve fibers. It leads to weakness, numbness, loss of balance and vision – symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis.
151 patients took part in the study. All of them called for treatment in the period from December 2014 to June 2015. They were infected with arboviruses – virus family, which includes Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya.
Zika virus is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus. It is spread by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Its name comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947. This dangerous virus is related to dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses.