West Nile and Zika were found to disrupt bowel movement and cause intestinal blockages, found new study. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that these blood viruses can kill neurons in the guts of mice and could explain the reason why some people suffer unpredictable bouts of abdominal pain and constipation.
"There are a number of people who are otherwise healthy who suddenly develop bowel motility problems, and we don't understand why," said Thaddeus S. Stappenbeck, professor at the varsity.
"But now we believe that one explanation could be that you can get a viral infection that results in your immune cells killing infected neurons in your gut," Stappenbeck added.
The intestines of some of the infected mice were packed with waste higher up and empty farther down, as if they had a blockage.
In contrast, chikungunya virus, an unrelated virus that does not target neurons, failed to cause bowel dysfunction.
The infected mice's digestive tracts gradually recovered over an eight-week time span. But when the researchers challenged the mice with an unrelated virus or an immune stimulant, the bowel problems promptly returned.
This pattern echoed the one seen in people, who cycle through bouts of gastrointestinal distress and recovery. The flare-ups often are triggered by stress or illness, but they also can occur for no apparent reason.