In a first, a 15-year-old girl infected with the Zika virus - which causes incomplete brain development in newborns - was diagnosed with a paralysis-causing myelitis by French researchers.
This is the first case of acute myelitis - inflammation of the spinal cord - following infection with Zika virus to be reported, according to a research team from the Pointe-a-Pitre University Hospital and the University of the Antilles in French West Indies.
A young patient in the acute phase of an infection by Zika virus presented motor deficiency in the 4 limbs, associated with very intense pain and acute urinary retention.
The presence of the virus was confirmed in the cerebrospinal fluid, blood and urine, researchers said.
In January this year, the girl was admitted to the Pointe-a-Pitre University Hospital in Guadeloupe, with left-side hemiplegia.
She showed urinary retention on her second day in hospital. The hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body) and pain became worse and the doctors recorded a loss of sensation in the legs, the researchers said.
They detected high concentrations of Zika virus in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid on the second day after admission - 9 days after the symptoms began.
Tests for shingles, chickenpox, herpes virus, legionellosis and mycoplasma pneumonia were negative.
The patient was treated with methylprednisolone, an anti-inflammatory drug, from the first day and daily for 5 days.
Seven days after admission, her neurological condition had improved.
“At present, the patient is still in hospital but she is out of danger. She has signs of moderate weakness in both legs but is walking unaided again,” researchers said.
“This case strengths the hypothesis regarding the neurotropic nature of the Zika virus,” they said.
“It highlights the existence of neurological complications in the acute phase of the infection, while Guillain Barre syndromes are post-infectious complications. Furthermore, this is a single case. Future studies will be needed.”
The case report was published in The Lancet journal.