Zika virus can lead to birth defects
Each year around 3 and 6% of babies around the world are born with a severe birth defect. Some of these are spina bifida and heart defects. In the last years there has been work done to explain the relation between the Zika Virus disease and birth defects caused by this infection, better known as Congenital Zika Syndrome (CZS). This syndrome consists on a pattern of specific birth defects observed in fetuses and infected babies during pregnancy. These defects can manifest the following characteristics:
- Decrease of cerebral tissue with a specific pattern of cerebral damage.
- Damage on the rear part of the eye.
- Limited movement joints like club foot.
- Increase of muscular tone that constrain the body right after birth.
These ailments have presented with more frequency because women exposed to the Zika virus during pregnancy, were not examined or evaluated to identify the infection, because in most cases it is asymptomatic and RNA detection of the Zika virus complicates for its transitory presence on body fluids. Therefore, infection by Zika virus during pregnancy can be discarded because of RNA negative tests.
Many babies with CZS and microcephaly will have delays in their development and face substantial challenges. Additionally, reports of newborn babies developing microcephaly have arose. Continuous monitoring is necessary to determine to what extent babies with CZS without apparent birth defects experience similar development problems, or other kind.
Given the big percentages of people infected with the Zika virus, many urgencies have been planned to come with measures against this infection, having notable results. Though there have been some strategies to detect this disease, there’s still not a sight of what families with a CZS child need. Factor like economic impact, marriage tension, uncertainty about their child results, and a lack of access to information or medical assistance also affect these families.
A The American Academy of Pediatrics publishing mentions that a reduced group of babies exposed to the virus during pregnancy presents obvious abnormalities when born. To some families to know their baby will have no consequences of this infection will require more time because some babies will show anomalies during their first months of life.
One of the studies show the aforementioned, performed in 13 babies with prenatal infection by Zika virus without microcephaly. The moment they were born, they showed cerebral anomalies compatible with CZS. Surprisingly, their head growth slowed down after being born and in 5 months, 11 of these babies developed microcephaly.
The March of Dime Foundation, an organization has dedicated a fundamental role in the awareness of birth defects, and has created strategies to promote education to prevent CZS in the United States and the whole world. Through various media they respond questions and bring information to reproductive women, like keeping a healthy weight, taking folic acid to prevent child defects and asking for genetic consulting in case of having a genetic affection, if 35 years old or older, if blood relatives are related of have had two or more miscarriages.
Reviewers: Brenda Giselle Alvarez Rodriguez (Public Health Research Unit), and Cassandra Saldaña Pineda (Knowledge Management Unit).
- Fitzgerald B, Boyle C, Honein MA. Birth Defects Potentially Related to Zika Virus Infection During Pregnancy in the United States. Published online January 25, 2018.
- Donald B. Bailey, Liana O. Ventura. The Likely Impact of Congenital Zika Syndrome on Families: Considerations for Family Supports and Services. Pediatrics Feb 2018, 141 (Supplement 2) S180-S187.
- Walani S., Biermann, J. March of Dimes Foundation: leading the way to birth defects prevention. Public Health. Published online May 12, 2017.