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Children exposed to Zika may present neurological delays


Matheus Cruz (AFN)


Research from Fiocruz reveals that children exposed to the Zika virus may have developmental delays and neurosensory changes in the second year of life. The study evaluated 216 children for two years and also found that neurological development was lower than normal in children exposed to the virus in the first weeks of pregnancy, while children exposed in the last weeks had fewer complications.

There were eight cases of microcephaly among the children followed by the researchers. Two of these reversed to proper growth of the head circumference. One of the babies, who presented problems the intrauterine period, had its growth restored; and the other one underwent cranial surgery that opened the sutures that were prematurely closed in a pathology known as craniosynostosis. These two children did not present neurological, motor, retinal or speech problems after proper handling of their clinical situation, nutrition and stimulation. Neither of the two children had their brain parenchyma affected. The study was published this on July, on the Nature Medicine journal.

Other results show negative neural development effects, which were identified in 31.5% (68) of the children evaluated, between 7 and 32 months of age. Researchers also found that children who experienced negative effects from exposure to Zika in the first months of life did not present changes after some time (except for microcephaly with changes in brain parenchyma): among 49 children who had abnormalities shortly after birth, 24 (49%) had normal evaluations in the second and third years of life. Therefore, it is very important that developmental delays are identified early and referred to essential stimulation. 

The research entitled Delayed childhood neurodevelopment and neurosensory alterations in the second year of life in a prospective cohort of ZIKV-exposed children also reported complications in eye exams in 9 of the 137 children who were tested, in addition to hearing difficulties in 13 of the 114 children. Neural development problems were identified in at least one of the assessed characteristics: vision or hearing. In these items, 68 of 216 children showed below-normal results. 

Bayley Scale III

The children who took part in the research had already been followed by the group for other evaluations. At this stage, they underwent neurological tests and the Bayley Scale of Infant Development, which measures the development coefficient through language, cognition and motor coordination tests. 

“Children need to be evaluated regularly through developmental tests for early detection of delays. Afterwards, they can be sent for early stimulation, in order to minimize damages. The next step is to evaluate them at preschool and school age. Early detection of learning disorders is essential,” said study coordinator Maria Elisabeth Moreira. These children can not be forgotten and the research must continue.

Maria Elisabeth Moreira also points out the importance of regular follow-up of children whose mothers had Zika during pregnancy. “Even if the symptoms do not appear in the first few months, the child may have complications during the first few years of life. The sooner it is detected, the higher the amount of chances we will have to act,” concludes the researcher. 

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