Suspected of causing brain damage in babies and a rare neurological ailment in adults, the Zika virus was linked by researchers Tuesday to a third disorder: paralysis-causing myelitis. French experts reported that a 15-year-old girl diagnosed on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe with acute myelitis in January had high levels of Zika in her cerebrospinal fluid, blood and urine. “This is the first published case to offer proof of a link” between myelitis and the virus sweeping Latin America and the Caribbean, Annie Lannuzel of the University Hospital Center Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe told AFP.
The case had been described in a report published by The Lancet medical journal. “Until recently, Zika was thought to cause benign infections in humans,” Lannuzel and a team wrote in the case report. Instead, the “presence of Zika virus in the cerebrospinal fluid of our patient with acute myelitis suggests that this virus might be neurotropic” — something that attacks the nervous system.
There have been fewer than a handful of reported cases of sexual transmission. Last week, scientists said they had found the first evidence of a biological link between Zika and microcephaly, which causes severe deformation of the brains of unborn babies. Laboratory tests found that Zika targeted key cells involved in brain development in the womb and then destroyed or disabled them, they said. A separate study, also last week, offered evidence that Zika may cause Guillain-Barre, a rare condition in which the body’s immune system attacks a part of the nervous system that controls muscle strength. Read more