A group of French researchers managed to establish a link between the Zika virus and a rare neurological disorder called the Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system, causing paralysis and sometimes even death.
The team of researchers performed a retrospective study on 42 patients who had developed the Guillain-Barre disorder when the Zika epidemic occurred in French Polynesia between 2013-2014. What they discovered was that every one of those patients showed evidence of a previous Zika infection.
Their tests also revealed the fact that 93% of them had been infected within three months prior to developing this neurological syndrome.
The researchers were led in this endeavor by Arnaud Fontanet from France’s Institut Pasteur, who believes their work is incredibly significant, since it reveals an existing connection between this virus and the serious neurological complications entailed by the Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Jeremy Farrar, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity and an infectious disease specialist, has also remarked on this study, saying that it represents the most compelling evidence of a causal relationship between Zika and the Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Farrar also points out that there seems to be an increasing number of Guillain-Barre cases in Brazil and other South American countries, which implies that a similar phenomenon might be occurring in those parts, although no official link has been made so far.
According to Fontanet, the regions which are currently affected by this epidemic could experience a rise in the number of patients suffering from neurological disorders. In light of this revelation, the head of Pasteur’s Emerging Diseases Epidemiology Unit advises authorities to increase the capacity of health-care facilities, so they can better assist patients who need intensive care.
The mosquito-borne virus was recently declared an international health emergency by the World Health Organization and is said to be connected to a birth defect called microcephaly.
According to WHO reports, even with the best treatment at hand, there are still 3-5% of Guillain-Barre patients who die from complications, such as blood infections, cardiac arrest or paralysis of the muscles that control breathing.
For more information about the study, you can consult the latest edition of the journal Lancet.
Image Source: NBCDFW