On Thursday, images surfaced showing the affect the #Zika virus can have on the brain of a fetus.
Apparently, the damage is believed to be the worst brain infections that doctors will ever see, #NPR reports. Being that Zika is such a severe infection in fetuses, most doctors have yet to be exposed to brains infections of that magnitude.
“Our goal is to illustrate for health care professionals around the world what they could expect to see with a Zika infection during pregnancy,” Dr. Deborah Levine of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston said. Levine is one of several professionals who care for babies with Zika, who contributed to this special report to raise awareness.
Initially, researchers focused on one particular birth defect associated with Zika, that caused babies with the condition to be born with a very small head. However, the damage Zika does to a fetus’ brain is more than just #microcephaly.
Levine and colleagues studied the images of 46 fetuses and babies born to mothers who had the virus during pregnancy, NPR reports. Apparently, in almost all of the cases, the babies had damage in the cortex, which controls critical cognitive functions such as problem-solving, emotion, memory, perception and language. Ultimately, those babies would not be able to behave normally after birth.
According to NPR, all of the babies studied had scars on their brain, which is the sole indicator of an infection, showing where the virus has injured the brain or stopped its development. In addition, the babies had damage in the brain stem and the cerebellum. Damage to the brain steam affects involuntary action, such as breathing and heartbeat, while cerebellum damage affects voluntary movements.
“These images show what happens in the most severe cases of Zika,” Levine said. “What we don’t know right now is what [milder] cases look like.”