According to a recent study, 32 percent of children who were born to mothers with confirmed or suspected Zika had poor-to-average test scores at 18 months.
It’s an important study because it shows that the Zika virus does cause negative birth defects such as central nervous system abnormalities and microcephaly, which fall under the Congenital Zika Syndrome. Microcephaly is noted as the icing on the cake for the infection.
In December 2017, there were roughly 4,100 pregnant women who had a confirmed case of Zika in Puerto Rico.
Children who had possible congenital Zika infection at birth but with no noteworthy clinical CZS findings must be observed for some time.
Dr. Luisa Alvarado-Domenech of the Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico said, researchers know how broad the disease spectrum is, as they have found infants with microcephaly without any brain abnormalities in imaging scans as well as infants without any notable congenital disabilities to have development issues.
A Pediatric-Outcomes of Prenatal Zika Exposure study looked at infants who were born to mothers with the Zika virus through a real-time polymerase chain reaction testing. In the study, 55 percent of the children were positive for IgM, while another 45 percent were positive for RT-PCR, with half of them being asymptomatic infections.
Of those women where the infection is noted by trimester, 14 became infected during their first trimester with another 10 infected during their second trimester.
47 infants underwent Peabody testing – two of them had moderate microcephaly at birth, but a normal head circumference when they were 18 months old.
Along with the Peabody Developmental Score, a handful of events had below-average scores for the following subtests:
- Stationary Subtest (Ability to hold their balance) 11 percent failed
- Locomotion Subtest (Ability to move from place to place) 21 percent failed
- Object Manipulation Subtest (Ability to handle a ball) 17 percent failed
According to Dr. Alvarado-Domenech, the majority of infants had no clinical apparent birth defects when they were born.
By identifying infants with gross motor development or those at work for abnormalities can help lead to early referrals for intervention and can lessen the negative impacts congenital Zika infection can have on their skills.
A similar study noted in the January 2019 edition of JAMA indicated that although a significant number of ZIKA-exposed infants without microcephaly do grow up normally, there are many others who do not.
Therefore, it’s the best interest of infants that doctors and other healthcare providers do a routine infant assessment to ensure problems are identified early on so they can be referred to treatment programs if necessary.