Two other viruses which are very similar to Zika virus – the chikungunya and the dengue viruses – are also known to cause neurological complications and may have contributed to the recent increase in neurological diseases that I'm studying here in Brazil. Although the international collaboration I’m working with is called “ZikaPLAN”, our group recognises the importance of these other two viruses and we’re actually studying chikungunya and dengue with just as much interest as Zika.
The initial conern over Zika arose when it was suspected to cause a birth defect called 'microcephaly' (small brain). It has since been shown that Zika causes a far wider range of problems in the newborn than just microcephaly. In this article I discuss the range of defects caused by the Zika virus and put them in the context of the other causes of birth defects that we know about.
Previously virtually unheard of, even by most virologists, Zika virus hit the headlines in 2015-16 when a huge outbreak in Latin America was associated with children being born with brain abnormalities. Though most of you will now have heard of Zika, this article will cover some of the basics and be a good starting point for understanding how my project in Brazil fits in.
My first post, explaining where I'm going and what I'll be doing. Start here!