Preschool-aged Colombian children who were exposed to the Zika virus while in the womb but were never diagnosed as having Zika-related birth defects or congenital Zika syndrome may still display differences in some aspects of cognitive development, mood, and mobility in early childhood, reports a study in Pediatric Research.
The study compared 55 children aged 3 to 5 years who were exposed to Zika in the womb in Sabanalarga, Colombia, and compared them to 70 control children aged 4 to 5 years who had not been exposed to Zika prenatally during the 2015-2017 Zika outbreak in South America.
Doctors assessed each group's motor skills and school-readiness skills (identifying colors, letters, numbers, and shapes) between December 2020 and February 2021. Parents were also asked to assess a child's mood and any behavioral or physical concerns.
Though cognitive function scores and manual dexterity scores were not significantly different between the two groups, parents of 6 (11%) Zika-exposed children reported mood problems, compared to 1 (1%) of control children. Parents of Zika-exposed children were also significantly more likely to report parental distress.
"There are still many unanswered questions about the long-term impacts of Zika on children exposed in utero," said Sarah Mulkey, MD, PhD, the study's first author, in a press release. "These findings are another piece of the puzzle that provides insight into the long-term neurodevelopment of children with prenatal Zika virus exposure. Further evaluation is needed as these children get older."