Zika virus-associated neurological disorders: a review

Brain. 2016 Aug;139(Pt 8):2122-30. doi: 10.1093/brain/aww158. Epub 2016 Jun 29.


Zika virus, an arbovirus transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes species, is now rapidly disseminating throughout the Americas and the ongoing Brazilian outbreak is the largest Zika virus epidemic so far described. In addition to being associated with a non-specific acute febrile illness, a number of neurological manifestations, mainly microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, have been associated with infection. These with other rarer neurological conditions suggest that Zika virus, similar to other flaviviruses, is neuropathogenic. The surge of Zika virus-related microcephaly cases in Brazil has received much attention and the role of the virus in this and in other neurological manifestations is growing. Zika virus has been shown to be transmitted perinatally and the virus can be detected in amniotic fluid, placenta and foetus brain tissue. A significant increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome incidence has also been reported during this, as well as in previous outbreaks. More recently, meningoencephalitis and myelitis have also been reported following Zika virus infection. In summary, while preliminary studies have suggested a clear relationship between Zika virus infection and certain neurological conditions, only longitudinal studies in this epidemic, as well as experimental studies either in animal models or in vitro, will help to better understand the role of the virus and the pathogenesis of these disorders.

Keywords: Guillain-Barré syndrome; Zika virus; arbovirus; microcephaly; neurological complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Microcephaly / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Zika Virus / pathogenicity*
  • Zika Virus Infection / complications*