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First case of Zika-linked glaucoma diagnosed in infant

Staff Writer |
The first case of an infant who developed glaucoma after being exposed to the Zika virus while in the womb has been reported by an international team of researchers.

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No previous cases have seen a link between Zika infection and glaucoma, a condition that can permanently damage the optic nerve and result in blindness, the researchers said.

But other vision problems and devastating brain defects have surfaced in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika while pregnant.

"We identified the first case where Zika virus appears to have affected the development of the anterior chamber, or front portion, of the eye during gestation and caused glaucoma after birth," study co-author Dr. Albert Icksang Ko said in a statement. He is a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, in New Haven, Conn.

Ko has been working with doctors in Brazil since the Zika outbreak began there in April 2015, in a collaborative effort to better understand the range of birth defects caused by the mosquito-borne virus.

During the course of their research, the investigators came across a 3-month-old boy who was exposed to Zika while in the womb.

Although no signs of glaucoma were present at the time of birth, the infant later developed swelling, pain and tearing in his right eye, the researchers said. Doctors diagnosed glaucoma and performed an operation to relieve the pressure within the boy's eye.

Doctors need to be aware that glaucoma is another serious symptom of Zika infection that should be monitored in infants, the study authors said. And more research is needed to determine exactly how glaucoma is caused in infants with Zika.

Most adults who are infected with Zika experience mild symptoms. But, the babies of women who are infected while pregnant can experience devastating birth defects, the most common of which has been microcephaly, where the brain is underdeveloped and the head is abnormally small.

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