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Zika brain damage may go undetected in pregnancy: Study

IANS  |  New York 

The damage caused by the could go undetected in pregnancy and may later lead to learning disorders, psychiatric illnesses and in babies, researchers including one of Indian-origin has found.

The findings, appearing in the journal Nature Medicine, showed that a foetus that gets infected with the may develop severe brain damage even when the baby's size is normal -- the signature symptom is an unusually small

Brain damage was found in regions that generate new brain cells, and those that play a key role in memory and learning and contribute to brain

These damages, which can be difficult to detect, may also occur in children infected during early childhood and adolescence and may significantly affect brain and lead to learning disorders, psychiatric illnesses and dementia, the researchers said.

"Subtle damage caused by this during foetal development or childhood may not be apparent for years, but may cause neurocognitive delays in learning and increase the risk of developing such as and early dementia," said Lakshmi Rajagopal, at the --

"These findings further emphasise the urgency for an effective vaccine to prevent infections," Rajagopal added, in the study conducted on monkeys.

A outbreak in in 2015 had led to widespread concern after rising incidents of -- a condition with markedly small heads -- were noticed in children born to mothers infected with the

Many of these children are diagnosed during pregnancy by or at birth because they have markedly small heads.

However, scientists have recognised that even children with a normal size at birth may be diagnosed with or late-onset microcephaly, when the fails to grow normally after birth.

In the new study, researchers looked for subtle changes in the brains of five foetal macaques whose mothers had been infected with the in pregnancy.

In all but one case, the researchers found no obvious foetal abnormalities with weekly ultrasounds.

The brains of the infected fetuses, however, did grow more slowly than normal, but they remained large enough so that their smaller size did not meet the criteria for

"Current criteria using size to diagnose fail to capture more subtle brain damage that can lead to significant learning problems and mental later in life," said Kristina Adams Waldorf,

"All children exposed to in utero should be followed long-term for problems with learning and development, regardless of size at birth.

"And we should also be worried about children and young adults becoming infected with the because they have the same vulnerable in their brains as the foetus," Waldorf said.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, February 06 2018. 21:40 IST
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