Zika virus (ZIKV) infection recently caused major epidemics in the Americas and is linked to congenital birth defects and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. A pilot study of ZIKV infection in Nicaraguan households was conducted from August 31 to October 21, 2016, in Managua, Nicaragua. We enrolled 33 laboratory-confirmed Zika index cases and their household members (109 contacts) and followed them on days 3-4, 6-7, 9-10, and 21, collecting serum/plasma, urine, and saliva specimens along with clinical, demographic, and socio-economic status information. Collected samples were processed by rRT-PCR to determine viral load (VL) and duration of detectable ZIKV RNA in human bodily fluids. At enrollment, 11 (10%) contacts were ZIKV rRT-PCR-positive and 23 (21%) were positive by IgM antibodies; 3 incident cases were detected during the study period. Twenty of 33 (61%) index households had contacts with ZIKV infection, with an average of 1.9 (range 1-6) positive contacts per household, and in 60% of these households, ≥50% of the members were positive for ZIKV infection. Analysis of clinical information allowed us to estimate the symptomatic to asymptomatic (S:A) ratio of 14:23 (1:1.6) among the contacts, finding 62% of the infections to be asymptomatic. The maximum number of days during which ZIKV RNA was detected was 7 days post-symptom onset in saliva and serum/plasma and 22 days in urine. Overall, VL levels in serum/plasma, saliva, and urine specimens were comparable, with means of 5.6, 5.3 and 4.5 log10 copies/ml respectively, with serum attaining the highest VL peak at 8.1 log10 copies/ml. Detecting ZIKV RNA in saliva over a similar time-period and level as in serum/plasma indicates that saliva could potentially serve as a more accessible diagnostic sample. Finding the majority of infections to be asymptomatic emphasizes the importance of silent ZIKV transmission and helps inform public health interventions in the region and globally.
Burger-Calderon R, Gonzalez K, Ojeda S, Zambrana JV, Sanchez N, Cerpas Cruz C, Suazo Laguna H, Bustos F, Plazaola M, Lopez Mercado B, Elizondo D, Arguello S, Carey Monterrey J, Nuñez A, Coloma J, Waggoner JJ, Gordon A, Kuan G, Balmaseda A, Harris E. (2018). Zika virus infection in Nicaraguan households. PLoS neglected tropical diseases, 12(5)