Can Zika Virus Cause Blindness?

Zika virus is known for causing congenital abnormalities especially microcephaly in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika Virus during pregnancy.

The virus affects the eyes also. Some ocular manifestations are uveitis, chorioretinal atrophy, intraretinal hemorrhages, optic neuritis, iris colobomas and lens subluxation.

Because of the variety of ocular tissues damaged by Zika virus, there are significant chances of the newborn becoming blind.

Researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology at the Kresge Eye Institute have found the evidence that Zika virus multiplies in the cells of retina. This causes irreversible loss of important constituents of visual pathway and results into blindness.“We studied the interaction of ZIKV with retinal cells. We observed that ZIKV can replicate and survive in retinal cells and ultimately kill them. Next, we tested whether ZIKV can cause retinal damage using an animal model,” Kumar said. “To our surprise, we discovered that ZIKV infection of a mouse eye resulted in retinal lesions referred to as ‘chorioretinal atrophy.’ Interestingly, the ZIKV-infected mouse eyes showed some features of ZIKV-infected human eye. We believe we have a unique model to study molecular mechanisms of ocular ZIKV infection, and perhaps to test drugs or new anti-viral molecules to treat this blinding eye disease.”


Zika virus infection is being studied in many countries. More research will help us manage the infection during the pregnancy as well as prevent it effectively.

Top image by microbiologybytes Can Zika Virus Cause Blindness? 1

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