Zika could be associated with temporary paralysis, study says

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.

Last update: Tue, 01/03/2016 - 17:24

More from Science & Tech

Facebook to build data centre in Denmark

The Danish city of Odense and social media giant Facebook announced on Thursday the city was to host a new European...

Scientists say 2016 was warmest on record, for third consecutive time

Last year was the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1880, US government scientists said Wednesday, making 2016...

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket makes first launch since September explosion

An unmanned SpaceX rocket blasted off from a California launch pad on Saturday and delivered 10 satellites into low...

Apple partner Foxconn suffers sales drop amid slow iPhone 7 shipments

Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology Group reported its first-ever annual sales decline late Tuesday, in...

10 years of the iPhone: The smartphone that changed everything

As the late Apple head Steve Jobs appeared on Macworld conference stage on January 9, 2007, attendees were already...