Zika Virus Associated with Microcephaly

N Engl J Med. 2016 Mar 10;374(10):951-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1600651. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


A widespread epidemic of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection was reported in 2015 in South and Central America and the Caribbean. A major concern associated with this infection is the apparent increased incidence of microcephaly in fetuses born to mothers infected with ZIKV. In this report, we describe the case of an expectant mother who had a febrile illness with rash at the end of the first trimester of pregnancy while she was living in Brazil. Ultrasonography performed at 29 weeks of gestation revealed microcephaly with calcifications in the fetal brain and placenta. After the mother requested termination of the pregnancy, a fetal autopsy was performed. Micrencephaly (an abnormally small brain) was observed, with almost complete agyria, hydrocephalus, and multifocal dystrophic calcifications in the cortex and subcortical white matter, with associated cortical displacement and mild focal inflammation. ZIKV was found in the fetal brain tissue on reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assay, with consistent findings on electron microscopy. The complete genome of ZIKV was recovered from the fetal brain.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Therapeutic
  • Adult
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / virology
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Diseases / pathology*
  • Fetal Diseases / virology
  • Genome, Viral
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Microcephaly / diagnostic imaging
  • Microcephaly / pathology
  • Microcephaly / virology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal
  • Zika Virus / genetics*
  • Zika Virus / isolation & purification
  • Zika Virus Infection / complications
  • Zika Virus Infection / pathology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / transmission