Normal head size at birth doesn’t rule out microcephaly

This is news that many did not want to fathom but is now a reality. A recent study conducted on 13 Brazilian babies and published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report revealed all that to be true. When they were born, these children did not have the typically smaller head linked to Zika. After some few months, 11 of these children developed it.

Complements a past study

A bigger percentage of the babies studied had undergone brain scans and researchers had earlier on determined several abnormalities. As they continued to grow, their brains did not develop in respect to their age and body size. This study complements another one that was published this fall. As per the first study, three babies without microcephaly condition developed it as they turned one year old.

As these babies approached their first birthdays or just celebrated one, they depicted other developmental and medical issues linked to Zika infection. There are numerous disabilities that arise and are now being referred to as congenital Zika syndrome. The kinds of problems experienced are similar to cerebral palsy and may include joint problems, challenges with swallowing food and seizures.

Dr. Cynthia Moore, the director of the division of congenital and developmental disorders for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an author of the new study, said that “There are some areas of great deficiency in the babies.” She went on to explain that they will likely have several impairments.

Echoing the sentiments was Dr. Deborah Levine, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, who said that there are chances we will witness a wave of children silently affected by Zika. “A lot of the developmental abnormalities we’re not going to see until later,” she said. “There’s going to be another group seen later in childhood, I’m afraid, and another group probably when they reach school age”.

How the new study was done

In conducting this new study, two northeastern Brazil clinics took in 13 infants who all tested positive for the virus. 11 of these babies had been brain-scanned some few after birth and found to have significant neurological damage. They had excess fluid and abnormal calcification, which could have killed the brain cells. Despite all these conditions, their head sizes were small but not as small as it would be expected for microcephaly. Thus doctors were prompted to monitor their growth.

“We were worried also, but now that we’ve started following those cases, we are very sad,” Dr. Silva said. “The picture is really terrible. At the least, if they have microcephaly, we expect them to have a very poor quality of life.”

The study experts have not been able to clearly explain why the brain development of these babies is not in line with their head size. “The necessary pathways and hormones that organize growth of the neonatal brain are not there anymore and the brain doesn’t grow,” explained Dr. Ernesto T. A. Marques Jr., who was not involved in the study.