Seasonality of birth defects in West Africa: could congenital Zika syndrome be to blame?


The link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly and other neurodevelopmental defects in infants, referred to as congenital Zika syndrome (CZS), was recently discovered. One key question that remains is whether such neurodevelopmental abnormalities are limited to the recently evolved Asiatic ZIKV strains or if they can also be induced by endemic African strains. Thus, we examined birth registries from one particular hospital from a country in West Africa, where ZIKV is endemic. Results showed a seasonal pattern of birth defects that is consistent with potential CZS, which corresponds to a range of presumed maternal infection that encompasses both the peak of the warm, rainy season as well as the months immediately following it, when mosquito activity is likely high. While we refrain from definitively linking ZIKV infection and birth defects in West Africa at this time, in part due to scant data available from the region, we hope that this report will initiate broader surveillance efforts that may help shed light onto mechanisms underlying CZS.

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