Zika virus and microcephaly: Scientists investigate mystery of whether mosquito bite is responsible for brain defect

February 1, 2016 10:11 PM

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The term refers to a rare neurological condition in which children have unusually small heads. In many cases it also means a baby's brain is smaller and may not have developed properly. The condition can be caused by hundreds of factors, both genetic and environmental. Genetic disorders associated with microcephaly include Down's syndrome and other chromosomal disorders. Possible environmental factors include lack of oxygen to a baby’s brain in utero or during birth, drug/alcohol use during pregnancy, malnutrition, injury to the brain, exposure to radiation or toxins. Infections such as chicken pox or rubella have also been documented to lead to the condition.

The spectrum of ways is which microcephaly can affect a child is wide. About 10 percent of children are born with normal intelligence, and having a small head is mostly a superficial issue. At the other end are those who cannot talk or walk and need constant care. Then there are those in between who...

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