Zika Virus Infection Leads to Variable Defects in Multiple Neurological Functions and Behaviors in Mice and Children

Ziqi Zhao, Ziwei Shang, Zilton Vasconcelos, Chunfeng Li, Yisheng Jiang, Shulong Zu, Jingyi Zhang, Fengchao Wang, Li Yao, Jae U. Jung, Patricia Brasil, Maria Elisabeth Moreira, Cheng-Feng Qin, Tara Kerin, Karin Nielsen-Saines, Genhong Cheng, Xiaohui Zhang, Zhiheng Xu

Advanced Science


Zika virus (ZIKV) has evolved into a global health threat because of its causal link to congenital Zika syndrome. ZIKV infection of pregnant women may cause a spectrum of abnormalities in children. In the studies in Brazil, a large cohort of children with perinatal exposure to ZIKV is followed, and a spectrum of neurodevelopmental abnormalities is identified. In parallel, it is demonstrated that infection of the mouse neonatal brain by a contemporary ZIKV strain instead of an Asian ancestral strain can cause microcephaly and various abnormal neurological functions. These include defects in social interaction and depression, impaired learning and memory, in addition to severe motor defects, which are present in adult mice as well as in the prospective cohort of children. Importantly, although mouse brains infected later after birth do not have apparent abnormal brain structure, those mice still show significant impairments of visual cortical functions, circuit organization, and experience‐dependent plasticity. Thus, the study suggests that special attention should be paid to all children born to ZIKV infected mothers for screening of abnormal behaviors and sensory function during childhood.