HealthDay News — Infants exposed to the Zika virus in utero should have their eyes examined for possible virus-related abnormalities, according to research published online July 17 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study included 112 infants in Brazil born to mothers with confirmed Zika infection. The infants were followed by a medical team for their first year of life. Among the mothers in the study, 32 had Zika virus infection in the first trimester of pregnancy, 55 in the second trimester, and 25 in the third trimester.

The researchers found that 20 infants had microcephaly, 31 had other central nervous system abnormalities, and 61 had no central nervous system problems. But 1 in 5 of the infants had sight-threatening eye abnormalities, with optic nerve and retinal abnormalities the most common. Ten of those with eye problems did not have microcephaly and 8 had no central nervous system findings. The researchers noted, however, that they “cannot affirm with absolute certainty” that all of the eye abnormalities were caused by Zika virus infection. In terms of timing, more than half of the infants with eye abnormalities were born to women infected with Zika virus in the first trimester. One-third were born to women infected with Zika virus in the second trimester, and two were exposed in the third trimester. 

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“All infants with potential Zika virus exposure should undergo screening eye examinations regardless of central nervous system abnormalities, timing of maternal infection during pregnancy, or laboratory confirmation,” the authors write.

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