The mosquito-borne Zika virus can lead to extensive birth defects that go beyond microcephaly, or an unusually small head and brain, a Brazilian study suggests.
Researchers studied 11 babies diagnosed with Zika and found they had a range of neurological impairments including small skulls and brains as well as an underdeveloped cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for motor skills, and an absence of normal folds in the cerebral cortex, the gray matter that handles memory, language, social skills and problem solving.
"Microcephaly is not the only thing that happens with fetal Zika infection," said senior study author Dr. Amilcar Tanuri, a researcher in the laboratory of molecular virology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Instead, Zika should be considered a congenital viral disease like rubella, also known as German measles, or cytomegalovirus, a common type of herpes, Tanuri said by email.
"Some babies do not survive and the ones that survive carry several developmental or cognitive delays or deficits," Tanuri added.