Highly Recommended Reading: New Study Links Zika Virus to Temporary Paralysis - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
A new study of 42 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in French Polynesia offers the strongest evidence to date that the Zika virus can trigger temporary paralysis, researchers reported on Monday. But experts cautioned that more evidence from other locations was needed to be conclusive.Since last year, doctors have noticed an unusual increase in Guillain-Barré cases in several countries with Zika outbreaks, including Brazil, El Salvador and Venezuela.

But as the World Health Organization reported on Friday, a large number of those patients have not yet been confirmed through laboratory testing to have Zika.
Guillain-Barré leaves patients unable to move, in extreme cases forcing them to depend on life support. While most patients eventually regain full movement, the condition can be fatal. In the patients studied in French Polynesia, none died, but 38 percent went to an intensive care unit and 29 percent needed help breathing.Continue reading the main story

This study, published in The Lancet, used a number of tests to try to determine whether the group of 42 patients who contracted Guillain-Barré during a Zika outbreak in 2013 and 2014 also had the Zika virus.
Continue reading the main storyShort Answers to Hard Questions About Zika VirusWhy scientists are worried about the growing epidemic and its effects on pregnant women, and advice on how to avoid the infection.


“This is a compelling paper that provides a good deal of objective data to suggest an epidemiological link between recent Zika infection and increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome,” said Dr. Kenneth C. Gorson, professor of neurology at Tufts School of Medicine, who was not affiliated with the paper. Thirty-seven, or almost 90 percent, of the patients in the study reported Zika-like symptoms four to 10 days before they started to notice neurological problems, like an inability to walk or general muscle weakness.

But determining whether the patients in fact had Zika was challenging. By the time they arrived at Centre Hospitalier de Polynésie Française in Tahiti during the 2013-2014 outbreak, none of them still had active Zika in their blood. The virus stays in the bloodstream for only about a week.

So researchers used a gold-standard test to look for Zika antibodies. It entailed adding serum from each patient to live Zika virus in a culture, and then seeing whether the patient had antibodies to destroy the virus.All 42 patients had antibodies that killed the Zika virus. By contrast, only half of a control group of 98 people — matched for age, sex, and residence — had the antibodies.

“That’s huge, because it’s the first case-control study to establish a potential relationship between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barré,” Dr. Gorson said.Dr. David W. Smith, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Western Australia, cautioned that finding antibodies that neutralize Zika is not enough to prove an infection of Zika.

To do that, the test also must show that the concentration of Zika antibodies was four times higher than for dengue, also known as dengue fever, which is common in Tahiti, said Dr. Smith, who was one of the authors of a commentary that accompanied the new study....continue reading: 

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