Two teams of researchers – one in Brazil and the other with the Yale School of Public Health – have published a new study that directly links Zika exposure to the risk of infants developing glaucoma. According to the findings, the infants who have been exposed to the Zika virus during gestation also experience severe retina lesions apart from the microcephaly and central nervous system extensive damage.
Until recently, however, there has been no clear proof that Zika exposure is directly responsible for glaucoma. As the new study suggests, the scientists were able to uncover compelling evidence that glaucoma in infants is closely related to Zika exposure.
“We identified the first case where Zika virus appears to have affected the front portion of the eye and cause glaucoma after birth”, says the co-author of the study and professor at the Yale School of Public Health, Dr. Albert Icksang Ko.
The paper has been published in the Ophthalmology journal. Professor Ko has been collaborating with the Brazilian health officials since the first case of Zika has been registered in the Americas. He hopes that by closely analyzing the illness, doctors will better understand the implications of the disease and can better prepare to fight off the infestation.
The first case of glaucoma in an infant was discovered in Salvador, while the researchers were investigating the extensive effects of the Zika exposure. The subject was only three months old, male, and has been previously exposed to the virus during gestation. However, the infant did not present clear signs of glaucoma until a while after birth. The symptoms included pain, swelling, and continuous tearing, mainly in the right eye.
Shortly after the infant was diagnosed with glaucoma, a team of local ophthalmologists performed a trabeculectomy which ultimately reduced the swelling and pressure within the patient’s eye associated with the disease.
Even though this is only the first case to be registered by the health officials, the team of researchers believes that glaucoma is yet another serious symptom of Zika exposure. However, further evidence is needed in order to clearly determine if glaucoma is caused by either direct or indirect exposure to the virus. Although the world struggles with a Zika outbreak mainly in Brazil and the Americas, there is currently no vaccine available that could deliver long-term immunity.
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