It seems everyday there is a new report on Zika virus, the most recent being a discovery published in JAMA that links the virus with serious eye abnormalities that may end in blindness in Brazilian new borns with microcephaly. The lead author Rubens Belfort Jr., who is the head professor at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil says;
“These are severe retina lesions that will impede the ability of the children to see well…Many of these children could be blind.”
Microcephaly is a birth defect characterized by an abnormally small head and dependent on the disorder’s severity and the area of the brain which is affected, will cause a number of developmental issues for the baby. Although hearing and vision problems have been fingered as possible developmental issues, experts say that it is not so in the cases of the findings from Brazil.
“Over 35% of the babies tested showed signs of scarring from an active viral infection in the eye. That’s much different from what would be associated with poor eye development in a microcephaly brain,” Lee M. Jampol an ophthalmologist of Northwestern University said, she also wrote a corresponding commentary for JAMA which explained; “It’s much more similar to what we’ve seen in the past with Ebola and West Nile virus.”
Another co-author of the study, a Yale Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine Dr. Albert Ko said; “It provides evidence that the effects of Zika are not limited to the brain,”. Due to this development, the researchers suggest the need for all infants potentially exposed to Zika to have a retinal eye exam. Lead author Belfort Jr. again says; “The frequency and severity of the lesions makes it important every newborn suspected of Zika infection to have the back of the eye examined by an ophthalmologist,” continuing, “It is possible some newborns that were infected by Zika and born without microcephaly could have ocular lesions.”