SEP 22, 2020 6:16 AM PDT

Mosquito-Borne Illnesses are Linked to Stroke

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Mosquitoes are major disease vectors; many people consider them to be the world's deadliest animal because they cause serious illnesses including malaria, dengue, and Zika virus, and kill around 725,000 people a year. New research reported in The Lancet Neurology has suggested that a combination of two viruses spread by mosquitoes: Zika, and chikungunya, may increase the risk of stroke. These viruses both cause fever and rashes and are endemic to the tropics, and when Zika virus infects a pregnant woman, her fetus is at risk for developmental disorders affecting the brain. Zika and chikungunya may also cause neurological complications in kids and adults.

Captured in West Covina, California on September 13, 2018, this image depicts a close, right lateral view of a female, Aedes albopictus mosquito obtaining a blood meal. / Credit: CDC/ San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District (SGVMVCD), Pablo Cabrera

In this study, the researchers followed 201 adults that were treated for a new neurological disorder in Brazil during a 2015 Zika epidemic and a 2016 chikungunya epidemic. The work showed that each virus may cause a variety of neurological problems. Zika was associated with a higher risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is characterized by damage in the nerves of the arms and legs. Chikungunya was linked to inflammation in the brain, and swelling in the spinal cord and brain.

Strokes happen when there is a blockage in an artery that supplies the brain with blood. Some viral infections are known to increase the risk of stroke. While a stroke might happen because of or during infections with either virus, this work found that patients that had been infected with both Zika and Chikungunya had a higher risk of stroke than people with either virus alone.

"Our study highlights the potential effects of viral infection on the brain, with complications like stroke," said study author Dr. Suzannah Lant, a Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool. "This is relevant to Zika and chikungunya, but also to our understanding of other viruses, such as COVID-19, which is increasingly being linked to neurological complications."

Over two years, 1,410 patients were screened for this study to identify the 201 patients that were suspected to have a neurological disease linked to either Zika, chikungunya, or both. Lab tests confirmed infection in about one-third of these patients, while about one-third of them were infected with more than one virus. Only about ten percent of the patients had recovered fully by the time they were discharged. Ongoing problems including weakness, seizures, and impaired brain function were reported.

"Zika infection most often causes a syndrome of rash and fever without many long-term consequences, but these neurological complications - although rare - can require intensive care support in hospital, often result in disability, and may cause death," said the leader of the Brazilian team, Dr. Maria Lúcia Brito Ferreira, neurologist and department head at Hospital da Restauração.

"Although the world's attention is currently focused on COVID-19, other viruses that recently emerged, such as Zika and chikungunya, are continuing to circulate and cause problems. We need to understand more about why some viruses trigger stroke so that we can try and prevent this happening in the future," noted senior study author Professor Tom Solomon, Director of the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Liverpool, Lancet Neurology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 22, 2020
Cardiology
Using Liposomes to Deliver Repair Packages to the Heart
OCT 22, 2020
Using Liposomes to Deliver Repair Packages to the Heart
The secret to any successful drug is not just its ability to treat a disease but its ability to target the disease exclu ...
DEC 01, 2020
Cardiology
The Benefits of Exercise on Adipokine Levels for Post-Menopausal Women
DEC 01, 2020
The Benefits of Exercise on Adipokine Levels for Post-Menopausal Women
The benefits of a healthy lifestyle don’t just stop when you get older. Being active has been shown to improve pos ...
DEC 07, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
An Autoimmune Link to Heart Disease is ID'ed
DEC 07, 2020
An Autoimmune Link to Heart Disease is ID'ed
CNIC researchers have found that there is an autoimmune link to cardiovascular disease that may improve diagnostic and t ...
FEB 24, 2021
Cardiology
Drinking Lots of Unfiltered Coffee May Raise Heart Disease Risk
FEB 24, 2021
Drinking Lots of Unfiltered Coffee May Raise Heart Disease Risk
While there has been a lot of debate about whether or not coffee is good for you, a new study reported in Clinical Nutri ...
MAR 25, 2021
Cardiology
Improved Triage Method to Get STEMI Patients from Door to Treatment
MAR 25, 2021
Improved Triage Method to Get STEMI Patients from Door to Treatment
A heart attack is an incredibly sudden and dangerous cardiac event that requires quick action for a successful recovery. ...
APR 20, 2021
Cardiology
How Low Can You Go? Diastolic Blood Pressure Standards May Change
APR 20, 2021
How Low Can You Go? Diastolic Blood Pressure Standards May Change
Blood pressure readings are a standard part of even the most basic health checks. Now some researchers are suggesting th ...
Loading Comments...