The Zika virus can cross the placenta causing brain damage in developing babies as it infects the central nervous system – nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. But it‘s not been known whether the virus can also infect the nerves that extend throughout our bodies, our peripheral nervous system. Some children and adults who contract Zika experience symptoms suggestive of peripheral nerve involvement, including pain in the eyes and stomach, and diarrhoea. Now, new findings show that the virus can indeed infect peripheral nerves. Researchers infected human peripheral nerve cells with a strain of Zika isolated from the Puerto Rico outbreak in 2015. Shown here are healthy cells (red, left), those treated with a low dose of virus (centre) and a higher dose (right). Virus particles (green) clustered around each cell’s nucleus (blue) and led to cell death.
Written by Deborah Oakley
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