Zika virus may cause memory loss similar to Alzheimer’s for adults

A new study suggests the Zika virus could cause long-term damage to your memory

Zika Virus UK

by Francesca Battson |
Published on

The Zika virus is a disease caused by an infection carried by a certain type of mosquito, with experts believing it is spread through sex with an infected person, but cannot be transmitted by everyday contact with someone who is infected.

Scientists previously had thought that the virus only impacted the brains of developing foetuses, and did not pose problems for adults.

Zika Virus UK

However, a new study now suggests that Zika can also infect adult brain cells, causing long-term memory damage.

READ: The Zika virus has officially hit the UK

Professor Sujan Shresta, a member of the team from La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology in California, USA, revealed that Zika can “wreak havoc” on adult brains.

“Zika can clearly enter the brain of adults and can wreak havoc, but it's a complex disease - it's catastrophic for early brain development, yet the majority of adults who are infected with Zika rarely show detectable symptoms,” he revealed.

"Its effect on the adult brain may be more subtle, and now we know what to look for."

scientist in lab

The disease has been linked to microcephaly – a serious birth defect where babies are born with small heads and brain damage.

READ: Zika virus causes, symptoms, and dangers for pregnant women

Experiments using mice have been carried out to show how Zika will affect the human brain, and have shown that the infection attacks immature cells in the adult brain which are vital to learning and memory.

These stem if lost could lead to brain shrinkage and similar mental impairment seen in Alzeimer’s, according to the scientists.

Researchers have said that although healthy individuals may be able to resist the Zika virus, those with weakened immune systems could be at serious risk.

Scientists still do not know the full extent of how their research applies to humans, or how permanent the brain damage is, but say their findings raises concerns of the possibility of long term mental impairment in adults infected by Zika.

We will bring you more on this as it develops.

READ: Pregnant teen with Zika virus SLAMMED as ‘selfish’ after vowing to keep unborn baby

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