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The challenge of the laboratory diagnosis in a confirmed congenital Zika virus syndrome in utero: a case report

Tags: | September 27th, 2019

Authors: Sulleiro E, Frick MA, Rodó C, et al.

Published in: Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(20):e15532

Introduction Zika virus (ZIKV) has caused one of the most challenging global infectious epidemics in recent years because of its causal association with severe microcephaly and other congenital malformations. The diagnosis of viral infections usually relies on the detection of virus proteins or genetic material in clinical samples as well as on the infected host immune responses. Serial serologic testing is required for the diagnosis of congenital infection when diagnostic molecular biology is not possible.

Patient concerns A 2-year-old girl, born to a mother with confirmed ZIKV infection during pregnancy, with a confirmed ZIKV infection in utero, showed at birth a severe microcephaly and clinical characteristics of fetal brain disruption sequence compatible with a congenital ZIKV syndrome (CZS).

Diagnosis ZIKV-RNA and ZIKV-IgM serological response performed at birth and during the follow-up time tested always negative. Serial serologic ZIKV-IgG tests were performed to assess the laboratory ZIKV diagnosis, ZIKV-IgG seroreversion was observed at 21 months of age. ZIKV diagnosis of this baby had to be relied on her clinical and radiological characteristics that were compatible with a CZS.

Interventions The patient was followed-up as per protocol at approximately 1, 4, 9, 12, 18-21, and 24 months of age. Neurological, radiological, audiological, and ophthalmological assessment were performed during this period of time. Prompt rehabilitation was initiated to prevent potential adverse long-term neurological outcomes.

Outcomes The growth of this girl showed a great restriction at 24 months of age with a weight of 8.5 kg (-2.5 z-score) and a head circumference of 40.5 cm (-4.8 z-score). She also had a great neurodevelopmental delay at the time of this report.

Conclusions We presume that as a consequence of prenatal ZIKV infection, the fetal brain and other organs are damaged before birth through direct injury. Following this, active infection ends during intrauterine life, and as a consequence the immune system of the infant is unable to build up a consistent immune response thereafter. Further understanding of the mechanisms taking part in the pathogenesis of ZIKV congenital infection is needed. This finding might change our paradigm regarding serological response in the ZIKV congenital infection.