> Italian man tested positive for Zika in sperm 188 days after diagnosis
> Another man diagnosed 181 days ago has tested positive for Zika
> Both cases emerged in a report that transforms medical understanding of the virus
> Previously doctors thought Zika could only survive three months in sperm.
Zika can survive in sperm for up to six months, a new study reveals. Until now scientists believed the virus would fade after three months. But this week an Italian man tested positive for Zika 188 days after he was first infected. And another man tested positive 181 days after being diagnosed with the infection.
Couples in affected areas had been advised to postpone starting a family, and infected patients were told not have unprotected sex for three months after their diagnosis. However, health officials will be forced to reconstruct their guidelines, ordering families to expect a much longer to completely avoid the risk of birth defects.
The news, published in two papers by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, also demonstrates how far scientists have to go towards understanding the infection. The authors of the report are still unsure whether six-month-old Zika in sperm is infectious or not.
Zika is most threatening to couples trying to conceive, or who have conceived. In adults it may only cause a fever, a rash and nausea, before symptoms fade. If a pregnant woman passes it to her unborn child, it could have devastating health consequences, that can lead to death or life-long ailments. This week, scientists discovered the virus could lead to severe joint abnormalities in babies. It is the latest birth defect added to the growing list of conditions doctors are being told to look out for in newborns.
The most widely-discussed is microcephaly, when a baby’s brain growth is stunted in the womb, and they are born with shrunken heads. Scientists are still largely ignorant about the exact link between Zika and birth defects. But on Thursday the medical community celebrated a research breakthrough.
A team at the University of Southern California has identified the two proteins in the Zika virus that cause crippling birth defects in infected fetuses. The proteins hammer at the brain’s ‘gatekeeping’ system until they gain entry and hijack cells, using up all their energy so they don’t have scope to grow, according to research by the University of Southern California. It is the most significant step towards understanding the infection amid widespread confusion about how it inflicts life-threatening conditions in babies.
The study released on Thursday emerged hours before Miami officials announced another three infections from local mosquitoes, bringing the total number of cases to 25.
Source: Daily Mail.
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