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Dengue during pregnancy can cause congenital brain defects in babies


Fiocruz Bahia


Every time the topic of congenital malformation caused by Aedes aegypti is brought up, we think of microcephaly caused by zika virus. But, according to new scientific findings, dengue fever, spread by the same well-known vector in Brazil, can increase the chances of neurological problems in an unborn child in 50%. These conclusions were derived from investigations conducted by researchers from Fiocruz Bahia Centro de Integração de Dados e Conhecimentos para Saúde - Cidacs (Health Data and Knowledge Integration Center), Bahia Federal University Instituto de Saúde Coletiva - ISC (Collective Health Institute), and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

By observing the records of 16 million live births from 2006 to 2012, researchers found a rate of 6 children with congenital malformation for every 100,000 children born. However, when the mother had dengue fever during pregnancy, the chances of a neurological malformation in the child was 50% higher compared to those mothers who did not have dengue fever. This finding was reported in Symptomatic Dengue during Pregnancy and Congenital Neurologic Malformations study, published in the September’s issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, of the Center for Diseases Controls and Prevention (CDC).

Epidemiologist Enny Paixão, who leads the investigation, said neurological anomalies during pregnancy are rare, occurring only in 0.08% of the births in the sample. And because these are quite rare events, the outcomes were only observed now, with large-volume data studies. The study observed that spinal cord and brain malformations were four times more frequent in women who suffered from dengue during pregnancy. However, no association with microcephaly was observed.

Previous studies

This group of researchers have recently published other two studies on the consequences of dengue during pregnancy. Published in Scientific Reports, one of the findings shows that dengue can cause a four-fold increase in the chances of mother death (women from pregnancy up to 42 days after delivery).Researchers showed that in case of dengue hemorrhagic fever, chances of death are 450 times higher.

In the previous study, the group observed that dengue during pregnancy nearly doubles the chances of a stillborn or baby’s death during delivery, while severe dengue would increase the chances of a stillborn fivefold.

About Cidacs

Centro de Integração de Dados e Conhecimentos para Saúde - Cidacs (Health Data and Knowledge Integration Center) is a study and research institution oriented to cross-disciplinary projects originated from the combination of large volumes of data. With the help of high-performance computer tools and based on the expertise of associated researchers, Cidacs has contributed to disseminating innovative scientific knowledge, broadening understanding about decisive aspects, and social and environmental policies concerning the health of the population, in addition to supporting public policy decision-making in favor of the society.

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