An alarming new study shows that Zika has the ability to ravage a baby's brain in more ways than previously thought.
Researchers from Brazil, the US, and Israel studied ultrasound scans of brains from 45 babies in Brazil whose mothers were infected with Zika while pregnant. Their study was published this week in the journal "Radiology."
The study's results are jarring — the virus can cause serious damage to different parts of the brain, beyond microcephaly. And the damage can continue to develop well beyond birth. Babies that don’t show signs of brain damage initially can still develop it as they grow.
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“The brain that should be there is not there,” said Dr. Deborah Levine, an author of the study and a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, told the New York Times.
“The images show the worst brain infections that doctors will ever see,” Levine told NPR.
In the scans, Zika is seen impacting three areas of the brain, including those that control communication between the left brain and the right brain; movement, balance, and speech; and thinking and emotion.
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The study could help doctors diagnose damage from Zika earlier in the fetus’ gestation, the Times reported, which would give the mother more options when deciding to carry the baby to term.
This new discovery makes securing US funding to combat Zika even more critical. A bill introduced by the Obama administration calling for $1.9 billion in funds to fight Zika has been stalled in Congress since it broke for summer recess in June.
There are more than 500 confirmed cases of Zika in the US, with thousands more in Puerto Rico. Recently it was found to have spread via mosquito in parts of Florida.