New research highlights links between Zika virus and brain abnormalities in foetuses

Scientists have frequently linked the virus with microcephaly, which sees babies born with abnormally small heads and brains

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In this file photo, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito acquires a blood meal on the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University in Sao Paulo, Brazil | Image: Andre Penner / AP/Press Association Images

New research has illustrated the damage that can be caused to developing babies' brains as a result of the Zika virus.

Scientists have previously linked the mosquito-borne virus with microcephaly - which sees babies born with abnormally small heads and brains. 

New research carried out in Brazil has illustrated some of the other severe birth defects that could be linked to the virus.

The study, published in the Radiology journal, says other defects found in foetuses exposed to Zika include "abnormalities in ventricular size, gray and white matter volume loss, brainstem abnormalities, and calcifications".

Reuters reports that nearly all babies and foetuses studied suffered from ventriculomegaly, described as "a condition in which the ventricles, or fluid-filled spaces in the brain, are enlarged".

The authors of the study note that "it is important to recognize that almost all of the infections at our institution occurred in women who had a characteristic rash in the late first trimester".

Although the Zika outbreak has been centered in Brazil, dozens of other regions have reported active transmission of the virus.

The new research comes as five new Zika cases were identified in Florida yesterday.

The local health department says it has identified 508 travel related Zika infections, as well as 42 non-travel related infections.

70 of the infections involved pregnant women, officials say.