Though most advisory information pertaining to the Zika outbreak has focused on pregnant women, a new study (published Thursday in the Cell Stem Cell journal) showed the virus may also compromise adult brain cells essential for learning and memory.
According to Joseph Gleeson, one of the co-authors of the study, the finding was “kind of a surprise” because “we think of Zika health concerns being limited mostly to pregnant women.” But the type of brain cells that are most susceptible to Zika infection — a type of stem cell called “neural progenitor” cells, mostly found in still-developing fetuses — are also found in adults. Though there are less of them, neural progenitor cells remain in the adult brain, where, according to the study, they “replenish the brain’s neurons over the course of a lifetime.”
Last Friday, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico after over 10,000 confirmed cases were reported on the island, a number that includes over 1,000 pregnant women. Though the Zika virus is known to cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, Florida Senator Marco Rubio — whose state is impacted to a greater degree than any other — opposes abortion in the case of Zika infection.
(Via Washington Post)