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Zika's effect on fetus may be even deadlier than previously thought

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Virus   Zika is still hot topic with different opinions among doctors

Zika virus may harm a fetus to a greater degree than previously suggested, potentially causing a range of life-threatening birth defects, a new report says.

The stillborn baby of a 20-year-old Brazilian woman infected with Zika had almost no brain tissue, which is a birth defect called hydraencephaly, according to the case study.

The fetus also suffered from microcephaly, the most common birth defect thought to be caused by the mosquito-borne virus. Children with this birth defect have underdeveloped heads and brains.

Most troubling, the fetus also showed the first reported birth defect potentially caused by Zika that affected a part of the body other than the central nervous system, according to the report authors.

Dangerous amounts of fluid buildup in the fetus caused swelling and damage to different parts of its body, a condition called hydrops fetalis, said the researchers, from Brazil and Yale University. They reported their findings in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

It's not certain that Zika was the cause of these abnormalities, and experts say many questions remain unanswered.

In fact, some medical professionals contend that Brazil and some international health officials prematurely declared a link between Zika and an apparent surge in birth defects.

Among them are 14 Brazilian and American researchers who said in the Feb. 24 Annals of Internal Medicine that the connection between the virus and microcephaly "remains presumptive." So far, the evidence is circumstantial, they wrote.

Others health experts said the evidence against the Zika virus is mounting.

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