Washington D.C., Aug .10 : There might be a possible link between the Zika virus and rare, but severe, joint deformities in babies, said a study by scientists in Brazil.
It has led the experts to warn that the virus could be linked to a host of other problems in babies, some of which might only become apparent as they get older.
Microcephaly (a rare birth defect where a baby is born with an abnormally small head) and other severe fetal brain defects are the main features of congenital Zika virus syndrome.
However, little is still known about other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.
Until recently, there were no reports of an association between congenital viral infection and arthrogryposis.
After the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil associated with Zika virus, two reports suggested an association, but they did not describe the deformities in detail.
So a research team decided to investigate the possible causes of the joint deformities. They studied detailed brain and joint images of seven children with arthrogryposis and a diagnosis of congenital infection, presumably caused by Zika virus.
All children tested negative for the five other main infectious causes of microcephaly - toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella, syphilis, and HIV.
All children showed signs of brain calcification, a condition in which calcium builds up in the brain.
The theory is that the Zika virus destroys brain cells, and forms lesions similar to "scars" on which calcium is deposited.
All the children underwent high definition scanning of the joints and surrounding tissues, but there was no evidence of joint abnormalities.
This led the researchers to say that the arthrogryposis "did not result from abnormalities of the joints themselves, but was likely to be of neurogenic origin" Based on these observations, the researchers conclude that "congenital Zika syndrome should be added to the differential diagnosis of congenital infections and arthrogryposis." As this is an observational study, no firm conclusions can be drawn about the effect of the Zika virus on arthrogryposis.
The study has been published in The BMJ..