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Karger Publishers, Neuroimmunomodulation, 5-6(25), p. 320-327, 2018

DOI: 10.1159/000495660



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Zika Virus as a Possible Risk Factor for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Neuroimmunological Aspects

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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The recent outbreak of the Zika virus (ZIKV) and the discovery that perinatal Zika exposure can lead to the Congenital Zika Syndrome has promoted a call for prevention measures. Due to the increased number of babies born with microcephaly, structural brain abnormalities, and neurological alterations in regions affected by ZIKV, investigations were carried out in order to better understand this process. The maternal immune system directly influences the fetal central nervous system, and complications during pregnancy have been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental disorder commonly manifested in the first years of life, is a disease with multifactorial etiology and is manifested typically by social and communication impairments, as well as stereotyped behaviors. Brain abnormalities, including both anatomically and functionally, can be observed in this disorder, suggesting delays in neuronal maturation and altered brain connectivity. It is known that some viral congenital infections, such as rubella, and cytomegalovirus can interfere with brain development, being associated with brain calcification, microcephaly, and ASD. Here, we reviewed a range of studies evaluating the aspects concerning brain development, immunological status during pregnancy, and neuroimmunomodulation in congenital viral infections, and we discuss if the fetal brain infection caused by ZIKV could predispose to ASD. Finally, we suggest a mechanism encompassing neurological and immunological pathways that could play a role in the development of ASD in infants after ZIKV infection in pregnancy.