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Scientists probe Zika’s link to neurological disorder

Uptick in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome raises concern among health officials

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6:30pm, February 29, 2016
A patient with Guillain-Barré syndrome in Colombia

SUDDEN PARALYSIS  Patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome can experience facial paralysis, like this patient (right) at a hospital in Colombia. The country has seen an uptick in cases of the neurological disorder, which scientists have linked to Zika virus infection. 

For some adults, Zika virus is a rashy, flulike nuisance. But in a handful of people, the virus may trigger a severe neurological disease.

About one in 4,000 people infected by Zika in French Polynesia in 2013 and 2014 got a rare autoimmune disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome, researchers estimate in a study published online February 29 in the Lancet. Of 42 people diagnosed with Guillain-Barré in that outbreak, all had antibodies that signaled a Zika infection. Most also had recent symptoms of the infection. In a control group of hospital patients who did not have Guillain-Barré, researchers saw signs of Zika less frequently: Just 54 out of 98 patients tested showed signs of the virus.

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