Prenatal infections have long been recognized as important, preventable causes of developmental disabilities. The list of pathogens that are recognized to have deleterious effects on fetal brain development continues to grow, most recently with the association between Zika virus (ZIKV) and microcephaly. To answer clinical questions in real time about the impact of a novel infection on developmental disabilities, an historical framework is key. The lessons learned from three historically important pathogens: rubella, cytomegalovirus, and ZIKV, and how these lessons are useful to approach emerging congenital infections are discussed in this review. Congenital infections are preventable causes of developmental disabilities and several public health approaches may be used to prevent prenatal infection. When they cannot be prevented, the sequelae of prenatal infection may be treatable. What this paper adds: The list of prenatal infections associated with developmental disabilities continues to increase. Lessons learned from rubella, cytomegalovirus, and Zika virus have implications for new pathogens. Severity of illness in the mother does not correlate with severity of sequelae in the infant.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Clinical Neurology