A theoretical estimate of the risk of microcephaly during pregnancy with Zika virus infection
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OBJECTIVES: There has been a growing concern over Zika virus (ZIKV) infection, particularly since a probable link between ZIKV infection during pregnancy and microcephaly in the baby was identified. The present study aimed to estimate a theoretical risk of microcephaly during pregnancy with ZIKV infection in Northeastern Brazil in 2015. METHODS: Temporal distributions of microcephaly, reported dengue-like illness and dengue seropositive in Brazil were extracted from secondary data sources. Using an integral equation model and a backcalculation technique, we estimated the risk of microcephaly during pregnancy with Zika virus infection. RESULTS: If the fraction of Zika virus infections among a total of seronegative dengue-like illness cases is 30%, the risk of microcephaly following infection during the first trimester was estimated at 46.7% (95% CI: 9.1, 84.2), comparable to the risk of congenital rubella syndrome. However, the risk of microcephaly was shown to vary widely from 14.0% to 100%. The mean gestational age at delivery with microcephaly was estimated at 37.5 weeks (95% CI: 36.9, 39.3). CONCLUSIONS: The time interval between peaks of reported dengue-like illness and microcephaly was consistent with cause-outcome relationship. Our modeling framework predicts that the incidence of microcephaly is expected to steadily decline in early 2016, Brazil.