Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 9th 2016 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, August 9, 2016
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
A study published by The BMJ today provides
more details of an association between Zika virus
infection in the womb and a condition known as
arthrogryposis, which causes joint deformities at
birth, particularly in the arms and legs.
Microcephaly (a rare birth defect where a baby is
born with an abnormally small head) and other severe
foetal brain defects are the main features of congenital
Zika virus syndrome. However, little is still known
about other potential health problems that Zika virus
infection during pregnancy may cause.
Until recently there were no reports of an association
between congenital viral infection and arthrogryposis.
After the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil associated
with Zika virus, two reports suggested an association,
but they did not describe the deformities in detail.
So a research team based in Recife, the Brazilian
city at the centre of the Zika epidemic, decided to
investigate the possible causes of the joint deformi-
They studied detailed brain and joint images of
seven children with arthrogryposis and a diagnosis
of congenital infection, presumably caused by Zika
virus. All children tested negative for the five other
main infectious causes of microcephaly---toxoplasmosis,
cytomegalovirus, rubella, syphilis, and HIV.
All children showed signs of brain calcification, a
condition in which calcium builds up in the brain.
The theory is that the Zika virus destroys brain cells,
and forms lesions similar to "scars" on which calcium
All the children underwent high definition scanning
of the joints and surrounding tissues, but there was
no evidence of joint abnormalities.
This led the researchers to say that the arthrogryposis
"did not result from abnormalities of the joints them-
selves, but was likely to be of neurogenic origin"---
a process involving motor neurones (cells that control
the contraction or relaxation of muscles)---leading to
fixed postures in the womb and consequently defor-
They point out that further research is needed with
a larger number of cases to study the neurological
abnormalities behind arthrogryposis, but suggest that
children should receive orthopaedic follow-up ...
"because they could develop musculoskeletal defor-
mities secondary to neurological impairment."
Based on these observations, the researchers conclude
that "congenital Zika syndrome should be added to
the differential diagnosis of congenital infections and
Because this is an observational study, no firm con-
clusions can be drawn about the effect of the Zika
virus on arthrogryposis. Nevertheless, the authors
suggest that this condition might be related to the
way motor neurons carry signals to the unborn baby s
muscles, or to problems with arteries and veins (vas-
cular disorders). (BMJ)
Higher weekly activity levels linked to lower
risk of five chronic diseases
Higher levels of total physical activity are strongly
associated with lower risk of five common chronic
diseases---breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart
disease and stroke, finds a study in The BMJ today.
Many studies have shown the health benefits of
physical activity. This has led the World Health Organ-
ization (WHO) to recommend a minimum total physical
activity level of 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) min-
utes a week across different domains of daily life.
This can include being more physically active at
work, engaging more in domestic activities such as
housework and gardening, and/or engaging in active
transportation such as walking and cycling.
But we still do not definitively know how much
the type and quantity of physical activity reduces the
risk of common conditions.
So a team of researchers based in the US and Australia
analysed the results of 174 studies published between
1980 and 2016 examining the associations between
total physical activity and at least one of five chronic
diseases---breast cancer, bowel (colon) cancer, diabetes,
ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke.
They found that a higher level of total weekly physical
activity was associated with a lower risk of all five con-
Most health gains occurred at a total activity level
of 3000-4000 MET minutes a week, with diminishing
returns at higher activity levels. (BMJ)
Possible link between Zika virus
and severe joint condition at birth
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