In a first, a 15-year-old girl diagnosed with paralysis-causing myelitis was found to be infected by the Zika virus, French researchers have reported.
"This case strengths the hypothesis regarding the neurotropic nature of the Zika virus. It highlights the existence of neurological complications in the acute phase of the infection,” the researchers said. "Furthermore, this is a single case. Future studies will be needed."
The case was reported by a team from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), Pointe-a-Pitre University Hospital in Guadeloupe and the University of the Antilles in the journal The Lancet.
The girl was admitted to the Pointe-a-Pitre University Hospital in Guadeloupe in January, with left-side hemiplegia or paralysis of one side of the body. She showed urinary retention on her second day in the hospital. The hemiplegia and pain became worse and the doctors recorded a loss of sensation in the legs.
The researchers detected high concentrations of Zika virus in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid on the second day after admission — nine days after the symptoms began.
Tests for shingles, chickenpox, herpes virus, legionellosis and mycoplasma pneumonia were negative. The patient was treated with methylprednisolone, an anti-inflammatory drug, from the first day and daily for five days.
Seven days after admission, her neurological condition had improved. At present, the patient is still in hospital but she is out of danger, according to the doctors.
She has signs of moderate weakness in both legs but is walking unaided again, the study said.