Zika believed to be linked to joint deformities in newborn babies

Research suggests that the virus prevents muscles around the joints developing properly

Zika believed to be linked to joint deformities in newborn babies

Picture by: Fernando Antonio / AP/Press Association Images

Researchers in Brazil said they have spotted an association between the Zika virus and arthrogryposis - a condition that causes joint deformities at birth.

The research, published today in the BMJ, comes from a team based in the Brazilian city of Recife, which is at the center of the outbreak. Researchers have been observing 104 children with Zika since March 2016.

The researchers focused on seven of the children, who were also born with arthrogryposis, a severe condition in which the muscles around the joints don't develop properly, resulting in weak or stiff joints.

The team scanned five of their brains and found a particular pattern of calcification that suggested the condition was due to neurological issues rather than problems within the joints.

Six of those children also had microcephaly - a condition where children are born with abnormally small of the heads often associated with the Zika virus.

A baby with microcephaly undergoes physical therapy at a therapy treatment center in Joao Pessoa. BrazilPicture by: Andre Penner / AP/Press Association Images

Two studies published in January - one published in Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology and the other released by the CDC) - provided early evidence that these two issues may be linked. However, this new study is the most detailed look at Zika-related joint deformities.

The study's authors said that this evidence is of high importance but there does need to be more research done.

"This disease goes beyond microcephaly, with other symptoms such as visual and hearing impairment, and unusual signs and symptoms different from other congenital infections, such as arthrogryposis and no microcephaly."