The Zika virus outbreak has started showing up on news programs all over the world. We know that the Zika virus is dangerous to pregnant women. It can cause microcephaly in newborns – a disease linked to birth defects like brain damage.
However, a new study is indicating that pregnant women shouldn’t be the only ones who fear Zika.
It might also affect adults, causing long-term memory damage and a decline in cognitive skills that resemble the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at The Rockefeller University and La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology carried out this study. They tested the effects of the Zika virus on adult brains by using mice that were engineered to resemble the effects of the Zika infection on humans.
They used fluorescent biomarkers to see which parts of the brain the virus invades. The results that the researchers got were shocking and alarming.
What They Found
The scientists deduced that in the mice, the Zika virus actually attacked the brain cells that weren’t yet mature. These immature cells are linked to the learning and memory processes in the human brain.
So, damage to these cells could mean that people might experience long-term memory damage and loss, trouble learning and remembering new information, depression, and other symptoms. This all closely resembles how Alzheimer’s disease manifests itself.
What’s more, if we can’t stop the Zika virus from attacking brain cells, it could potentially cause brain shrinkage or damage to the cognitive processes. All of this essentially means that a Zika infection is a huge threat to the adult human brain.
What This Means
It’s not clear to what extent the effects of the Zika virus in mice actually translate to humans. There has only been one study as of yet, so this is just the beginning. There is still reason to worry, though, because these results only prove that everybody should be wary of the Zika virus, not just pregnant women.
New reports state that Zika might not only be causing brain damage but also hearing loss in newborns. This only increases the need to find a vaccine for this virus and to eradicate the Zika-carrying mosquitoes so that they can do no further damage.
What We Can Do
You might be wondering where we’re at with a Zika vaccine and ways of combatting the Zika virus. As of right now, scientists are slowly getting closer to creating a Zika vaccine.
Scientists still don’t know much about the Zika virus and how it affects us. So, studies like the one we mentioned above are inching us closer to understanding this mosquito-borne disease. It might still be a while before we get a Zika vaccine or until scientists find a way to make sure that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes don’t carry Zika anymore.