New Findings Related To West Nile-Induced Brain Damage Have Recently Been Discovered
The West Nile virus does not always cause damage to the brain and spinal cord. Typically the virus only reaches these advanced stages in infected individuals with compromised immune systems. However, a ten year study is showing that brain damage can appear years after the original infection. Although this study is not yet published, researchers are already convinced that their knowledge concerning the West Nile virus may have to be updated. This recent study has shown doctors and other medical professionals that the chances of developing brain damage as a result of West Nile infection may be more common and not as predictable as they once thought.
The results of this study were recently discussed at an annual meeting for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. This study, which included data collected from two hundred and sixty two participants is one of the few studies concerning the long term effects of West Nile infection. Between the years of 2002 and 2012 researchers at Baylor tracked numerous people who had contracted the virus. Most of these people had only experienced mild or no symptoms of the virus. What was troubling was that many of these people were found to have brain abnormalities long after the symptoms of the initial infection had disappeared. Somehow, the participants had developed new health issues that were previously unknown to the doctors that treated them.
The doctors leading the study had one hundred and seventeen out of the two hundred and sixty two participants medically reevaluated. Of these one hundred and seventeen patients, more than half had developed neurological abnormalities of some kind. While some of the participants had developed cognitive symptoms, such as impaired memory, most of the participants had developed tremors, muscle weakness or abnormal reflexes.
MRI studies were carried out on thirty of the participants with worsening symptoms. Many of them showed abnormalities in the parts of the brain that control speech. The participants who had developed brain swelling during the initial stages of the infection were found to have decreased brain matter, as though parts of their brains had shrunk. Unfortunately a sample size of only thirty MRI-tested participants cannot reveal anything conclusive. However, it seems certain that brain damage can develop long after the worst symptoms of the virus have disappeared.
Do you think that brain abnormalities only occurred in patients who experienced brain swelling during the initial stages of the virus?
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