Seroepidemiology of Dengue, Zika, and Yellow Fever Viruses among Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2018 Sep;99(3):756-763. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.18-0156. Epub 2018 Jul 5.


Flaviviruses such as Zika, dengue, and yellow fever cause epidemics throughout the tropics and account for substantial global morbidity and mortality. Although malaria and other vector-borne diseases have long been appreciated in Africa, flavivirus epidemiology is incompletely understood. Despite the existence of an effective vaccine, yellow fever continues to cause outbreaks and deaths, including at least 42 fatalities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2016. Here, we leveraged biospecimens collected as part of the nationally representative 2013-2014 Demographic and Health Survey in the DRC to examine serological evidence of flavivirus infection or vaccination in children aged 6 months to 5 years. Even in this young stratum of the Congolese population, we find evidence of infection by dengue and Zika viruses based on results from enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and neutralization assay. Surprisingly, there was remarkable discordance between reported yellow fever vaccination status and results of serological assays. The estimated seroprevalences of neutralizing antibodies against each virus are yellow fever, 6.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 4.6-7.5%); dengue, 0.4% (0.1-0.9%); and Zika, 0.1% (0.0-0.5%). These results merit targeted, prospective studies to assess effectiveness of yellow fever vaccination programs, determine flavivirus seroprevalence across a broader age range, and investigate how these emerging diseases contribute to the burden of acute febrile illness in the DRC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / epidemiology
  • Dengue / epidemiology*
  • Dengue / prevention & control
  • Dengue Virus / immunology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies*
  • Yellow Fever / epidemiology*
  • Yellow Fever / prevention & control
  • Yellow Fever Vaccine / immunology
  • Yellow fever virus / immunology
  • Zika Virus / immunology
  • Zika Virus Infection / epidemiology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Yellow Fever Vaccine