Zika, a Formidable Enemy, Attacks and Destroys Parts of Babies’ Brains
The images tell a heartbreaking story: Zika’s calamitous attack on the brains of babies — as seen from the inside.
With a macabre catalog of brain scans and ultrasound pictures, a new study details the devastation done to 45 Brazilian babies whose mothers were infected with Zika during pregnancy. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Radiology, is the most comprehensive collection of such images so far, and it reveals a virus that can launch assaults beyond microcephaly, the condition of unusually small heads that has become the sinister signature of Zika.
Images show the damage inflicted on the brains of twin girls born with the Zika virus.
Most of the babies in the study were born with microcephaly, but many of them also suffered other impairments, including damage to important parts of the brain: the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres of the brain; the cerebellum, which plays a significant role in movement, balance and speech; the basal ganglia, which are involved in thinking and emotion.
“It’s not just the small brain, it’s that there’s a lot more damage,” said Dr. Deborah Levine, an author of the study and a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “The abnormalities that we see in the brain suggest a very early disruption of the brain development process.”
“不只是脑袋小，还有许多其他损伤，”这项研究的作者之一、位于波士顿的哈佛医学院(Harvard Medical School)放射学教授黛博拉·莱文(Deborah Levine)博士说。“我们在大脑中看到的异常表明对大脑发育的阻碍出现得非常早。”
The findings also raised worrisome concerns about whether babies born without such obvious impairments could develop brain damage as they grow. For example, almost all the babies in the study had problems in the cortex, including clumps of calcium and neurons that did not reach the right location in the brain. Because the cortex keeps developing after birth, Levine said, “we’re concerned that there might be mild cases that we haven’t seen yet, and we should keep monitoring the babies after birth to see if they have cortical abnormalities.”
The images studied came from 17 babies whose mothers had a confirmed Zika infection during pregnancy and from 28 without laboratory proof but with all indications of Zika.
The images include scans of twin girls, who both developed microcephaly. The pictures show folds of overlapping skin and a sloping forehead, indications not only that the brain is smaller, but also that the forebrain has not developed normally, Levine said.