zika virus komarci.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ESTEBAN BIBA

Scientists studying Zika have for the first time found a possible link between the virus and a neurological syndrome that can cause temporary paralysis, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The majority of patients diagnosed with the Guillain-Barre syndrome during an outbreak of Zika in French Polynesia in 2013 and 2014 had recently showed signs of Zika infection, the scientists said in the study.

Guillain-Barre is not the same as microcephaly, a congenital condition whose suspected link to Zika prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a public health emergency.

A relatively rare syndrome, Guillain-Barre is frequently caused by infections or other illnesses. It causes the body's immune system to damage its own nerves, resulting occasionally in muscle weakness and paralysis.

To determine whether Guillain-Barre was linked with Zika, scientists tested a set of patient cases against two control groups, including one group that was treated for a non-febrile illness. Fever is one of the most common symptoms of Zika and other mosquito-transmitted diseases.

Ninety-eight per cent of those tested with Guillain-Barre had Zika antibodies, compared to 56 per cent in the first control group. Most cases of Guillain-Barre had antibodies that indicated that the patient had experienced a Zika infection in the days before developing the syndrome.

Among the cases of Guillain-Barre analyzed from French Polynesia, 38 per cent were admitted to intensive care. None of the patients died, and 57 per cent of patients were able to walk without assistance three months after being discharged, the study said.

Zika has been documented in more than 30 countries, most of them in the Americas. The virus usually causes only mild symptoms including fever. The study's authors estimated that approximately 24 people would develop Guillain-Barre for every 100,000 people infected with Zika virus.

"Although it is unknown whether attack rates of Zika virus epidemics will be as high in affected regions in Latin America than in the Pacific Islands, high numbers of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome might be expected in the coming months as the result of this association," said lead author Arnaud Fontanet, of France's Institut Pasteur.

Latest news

19-year-old men arrested for putting up anti-Serb stickers in Vukovar, minister condemns incident

Police have arrested a 19-year-old man, suspected of putting up anti-Serb stickers reading  "Serbian Family Tree" with an image of people hanging from a tree and the face of Ante Pavelic, Croatian fascist dictator who led the World War II Ustasha movement and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), at bus stops along Trpinjska Street in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar.

Britain faces highest terrorism threat since 1970s, official says

Britain faces its highest threat of terrorism since the 1970s, when the Irish Republican Army planned a series of bomb attacks, a legal official said on Sunday.

Monitor: Syrian regime forces killed in fighting near Lebanon border

Dozens of Syrian regime troops were killed and injured in an attack on Sunday by hardline jihadists led by an al-Qaeda-linked group near the Lebanese border, a monitor said.

Anarchist riots hit central Athens district

Clashes broke out between Greek police and self-styled anarchists in a central Athens neighbourhood early Sunday.

Thousands more affected by noise under Berlin flight route change

Thousands more residents in Berlin could be affected by aircraft noise due to changes in a flight route to a long-delayed new international airport.

Details emerge on Heidelberg car-ramming as police seek motive

The car used to ram into crowds in the south-western German town of Heidelberg was rented in Hamburg, police said Sunday, as they continued to search for a motive for the incident.

Fire at asylum seeker accommodation in Sweden

A fire overnight at an accommodation centre for asylum seekers in Sweden caused injuries to at least a dozen residents, police said on Sunday.

Analysts: Croatia's economy rises 3.3%, hitting new high since 2008

Croatia's economy expanded 3.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2016, compared to Q4 2015, according to projections of economic analysts polled by Hina, who ascribe this record high rise to increasing personal consumption, higher industrial output rates and growing investments.

Fate of German hostage in Philippines unknown as deadline passes

The fate of a 70-year-old German man held captive for three months in the southern Philippines was unknown after a deadline for a ransom to be paid passed Sunday, a military spokesman said.

Dengue fever risk growing in Thailand, authorities say

Dengue fever is posing a greater threat in Thailand, particularly in the southern region, the country's Disease Control Department said Sunday, as the number of people killed by the mosquito-borne disease this year stands at six.

Brexit fears plague locals and expats alike in southern Spain

As Britain's departure from the EU approaches, the anxiety is most palpable on Spain's Costa del Sol, where so many Britons live. What will happen to the economy if the expats one day have to leave?

'La La Land,' politics to share spotlight at Oscars

The Oscars will take the stage Sunday for an awards ceremony whose outcome feels like a foregone conclusion - a win, or 10, for "La La Land."