mSphere, 8 August 2018

Andres Moreira-Soto, Renata Cabral, Celia Pedroso, Monika Eschbach-Bludau, Alexandra Rockstroh, Ludy Alexandra Vargas, Ignacio Postigo-Hidalgo, Estela Luz, Gilmara Souza Sampaio, Christian Drosten, Eduardo Martins Netto, Thomas Jaenisch, Sebastian Ulbert, Manoel Sarno, Carlos Brites, Jan Felix Drexler
The Latin American 2015–2016 Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak was associated with an increase in microcephaly predominantly in northeastern Brazil. To comparatively investigate infectious causes of congenital malformations, we performed a nested case-control study in 32 mothers of cases of suspected congenital Zika syndrome (CZS) and 160 age-matched controls from Bahia, northeastern Brazil. We collected clinical and imaging data and assessed past exposure to ZIKV, Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), dengue virus, and 8 established TORCH (Toxoplasma gondii, Treponema pallidum, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus 1 [HSV-1] and HSV-2, varicella-zoster virus, parvovirus B19) pathogens using multiple serological tests. Heterogeneous symptoms prevented unequivocal diagnosis of CZS on clinical grounds. Only ZIKV and CHIKV seroprevalence rates differed significantly between cases and controls (93.8% versus 67.8% for ZIKV [Fisher’s exact text, P = 0.002] and 20.7% versus 8.2% for CHIKV [χ2, P = 0.039]). High ZIKV seroprevalence rates in cases could not be explained by previous dengue virus infections potentially eliciting cross-reactive antibody responses affecting ZIKV serological tests. In conditional logistic regression analyses, only ZIKV was significantly associated with congenital malformations (P = 0.030; odds ratio, 4.0 [95% confidence interval, 1.1 to 14.1]). Our data support an association between maternal ZIKV exposure and congenital malformations. Parallels between the discrepant ZIKV and CHIKV seroprevalence rates between cases and controls and similar seroprevalence rates between cases and controls for the sexually transmitted T. pallidum and HSV-2 may suggest the occurrence of predominantly vector-borne transmission in our study population. High seroprevalence of TORCH pathogens suggests that exhaustive diagnostics will be necessary in the aftermath of the ZIKV outbreak and provides baseline data for longitudinal studies on ZIKV pathogenesis.


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