Systematic Review of the Manifestations of Congenital Rubella Syndrome in Infants and Characterization of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)

Risk Anal. 2016 Jul;36(7):1332-56. doi: 10.1111/risa.12263. Epub 2014 Aug 12.


Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) continues to cause disability among unvaccinated populations in countries with no or insufficient rubella vaccine coverage to prevent transmission. We systematically reviewed the literature on birth outcomes associated with CRS to estimate the duration, severity, and frequency of combinations of morbidities. We searched PubMed, the Science Citation Index, and references from relevant articles for studies in English with primary data on the frequency of CRS manifestations for ≥20 cases and identified 65 studies representing 66 study populations that met our inclusion criteria. We abstracted available data on CRS cases with one or more hearing, heart, and/or eye defect following maternal rubella infection during the period of 0-20 weeks since the last menstrual period. We assessed the quality and weight of the available evidence using a modified Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. Most of the evidence originates from studies in developed countries of cohorts of infants identified with CRS in the 1960s and 1970s, prior to the development of standardized definitions for CRS and widespread use of vaccine. We developed estimates of undiscounted disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost per CRS case for countries of different income levels. The estimates ranged from approximately 19 to 39 for high-income countries assuming optimal treatment and from approximately 29 to 39 DALYs lost per CRS case in low- and lower- middle-income countries assuming minimal treatment, with the lower bound based on 2010 general global burden of disease disability weights and the upper bound based on 1990 age-specific and treatment-specific global burden of disease disability weights. Policymakers and analysts should appreciate the significant burden of disability caused by CRS as they evaluate opportunities to manage rubella.

Keywords: Birth outcomes; congenital rubella syndrome; disability; life expectancy; rubella.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness
  • Developed Countries
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • Rubella Syndrome, Congenital / complications*