Zika linked to glaucoma

A child exposed to the Zika virus during pregnancy develops glaucoma in infancy

05 Dec 2016 by Olivia Wannan

The effect of the Zika virus on the eye may include the development of glaucoma, as well as macular atrophies, retinal lesions, pigment anomalies and loss of the foveal reflex, according to US scientists.

Yale School of Public Health researcher, Professor Albert Icksang Ko, and his research team in Brazil discovered the ocular condition in a three-month-old boy who was exposed to the Zika virus while developing in the womb.

In a paper published in the journal Ophthalmology, Professor Ko highlighted that the child did not have any symptoms of glaucoma when he was born.

However, three months later, the infant was diagnosed with swelling, pain and tearing in his right eye. A trabeculectomy was performed, and this successfully eased the ocular pressure.

Professor Ko explained that: “We identified the first case where Zika virus appears to have affected the development of the anterior chamber, or front portion of the eye, during gestation and caused glaucoma after birth.”

He emphasised that public health workers treating infants exposed to Zika virus should be aware that glaucoma is another potential, serious complication of the infection.

However, more research was needed to determine the link between Zika exposure and glaucoma, he concluded.

The mosquito-transmitted Zika virus can cause mild symptoms when an infection occurs in an adult, but causes microcephaly when foetuses are exposed during a pregnancy. In February, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak across South America a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Image credit: Rafael Gilo


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