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Scientists Find New Zika Virus Link to Birth Defects

February 16, 2016
Public Health

Scientists in Brazil have found more evidence linking the Zika virus to cases of microcephaly.

Working at the PUC-Parana University, researchers isolated the virus from the brains of two babies who only lived for 48 hours. Doctors made the discovery after following the pregnancies of 10 women in the state of Paraiba, in the North East of Brazil, which has the second highest number of cases of microcephaly in the country.

Up until now no direct link between the virus and microcephaly has been established, with some scientists even suggesting that exposure to environmental pesticides including pyriproxyfen, may be responsible. Last week however scientists in the US and Slovenia both isolated the virus from babies with microcephaly.

There have been 460 cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil, with another 3,850 cases under investigation. The condition, which results in babies being born with brain damage and abnormally small heads, has been linked to the Zika virus which has spread throughout South America.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already declared a global public health emergency over a possible link between Zika and microcephaly. The number of countries that have seen cases of the virus has increased to over 30 after a 36-year-old Russian woman, who had returned from the Dominican Republic was diagnosed with Zika.