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Version 1. F1000Res. 2018 Feb 7;7:159. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.13858.1. eCollection 2018.

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

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Computational Epidemiology Group, Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Engineering Systems Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02142, USA.
Research for Health, Inc., Cuyahoga Falls, OH, 44223, USA.
School of Nursing, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, 27402, USA.
241 Cunningham Hall, Department of Biological Sciences & School of Biomedical Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, OH, 44242, USA.


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 correspond 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.


Zika virus; ZIKV; birth defects; microcephaly; congenital Zika syndrome; West Africa; seasonality

Conflict of interest statement

No competing interests were disclosed.

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