Zika virus may cause long-term memory damage, similar to Alzheimer's disease
"The Zika virus may cause long-term damage to the memory which mirrors the effects of Alzheimer’s disease a new study suggests.
Scientists had thought that the virus only impacted the brains of developing foetuses and did not believe an infection posed serious problems for adults.
But a new study suggests that Zika can also infect the brain cells of adults, causing long term damage to memory.
“Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc,” said Professor Sujan Shresta, a member of the team from the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology in California, USA.
“But it's a complex disease - it's catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms.
"Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for."
The mosquito-borne infection has already been linked to microcephaly - a serious birth defect in which babies are born with small heads and brain damage.
Experiments using mice engineered to mimic human Zika infection show that the virus also attacks immature cells in the adult brain vital to learning and memory.
Over time, loss of these stem cells could lead to brain shrinkage and the kind of mental impairment seen in Alzheimer's, say the scientists.
The scientists used fluorescent biomarker "tags" to indicate when adult brain cells were invaded by the virus.
Their results, published in journal Cell Stem Cell, show that the virus targets two specific regions of the adult brain critical to learning and memory."