Effects of Chikungunya Fever on Pregnancies and Newborns

by Caleb Sooknanan ’20

Figure 1: Newborn babies are primarily affected by CHIKF, especially if their mothers contract the fever as well.


Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus that incites severe joint pain and fever. The chikungunya fever (CHIKF) epidemic in Latin and South America in 2013 revealed that the virus posed a threat to maternal and child health. However, information surrounding the risks and effects of mother-to-child transmission of the virus is limited. Dr. Jaime R. Torres and his team of researchers at La Universidad Central de Venezuela performed a study to analyze the effects of CHIKF on infants born to infected mothers during the epidemic’s peak.

To perform this study, the researchers collected clinical and epidemiological data for 169 infected newborns. The newborns were examined within four regional maternity hospitals in El Salvador, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. The researchers also evaluated pregnancy outcomes in 191 infected mothers from two of these clinical centers. The newborns and mothers were evaluated as symptomatic cases, or cases that displayed observable symptoms of infection.

The most common symptoms in newborns included fever, rash, edema, and heightened sensitivity to pain. When symptoms occurred during the first week of life, but evidence of a mosquito bite was not present, it was theorized that the disease had a vertical mother-to-child transmission. 79 infected newborns with signs of acute CHIKF were studied more closely, as their symptoms appeared 3 to 9 days after birth. Four of the newborns died due to extremely low birth weights and infections, a case fatality rate of 5.1%.

The newborns demonstrated clinical effects similar to those reported in previous studies. However, there were fewer cases with neurological problems, a deviation from the current theory that CHIKF may represent a major cause of central nervous system diseases in children. The researchers suggested that neonatal subjects diagnosed with CHIKF should have follow-ups to address any neurological problems resulting from their infections.

The researchers also suggested that clinicians, especially within countries affected by CHIKF epidemics, should become more acquainted with the effects of mother-to-child transmission. This may help improve treatments for infected newborns and women in the Americas.


  1. J. Torres, et al., Congenital and perinatal complications of chikungunya fever: a Latin American experience. International Journal of Infectious Diseases 51, 85-88 (2016). doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2016.09.009
  2. Image retrieved from: http://www.dreamteambaby.com/sleep-tips/newborn/

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