Optic nerve pallor proves prevalent in ZIKA virus patients, study finds

During a presentation at the American Academy of Ophthalmology 2021 annual meeting, Denise Freitas, MD, reported that the ocular findings in infants with congenital Zika virus syndrome were similar among the affected infants and occurred frequently. The most prevalent of the findings was optic nerve pallor.

Reviewed by Denise Freitas, MD.

Ocular findings in infants with congenital Zika virus syndrome (CZS) were similar among the affected infants and occurred frequently, according to Denise Freitas, MD, who presented findings at the American Academy of Ophthalmology 2021 annual meeting in New Orleans.

The most prevalent of the findings was optic nerve pallor.

Freitas is from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Paulista School of Medicine, Hospital São Paulo, and the Federal University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

Freitas and colleagues conducted a study to characterize the ocular findings in infants with microcephaly and CZS from 2015 to 2017 in Paraiba, Brazil.

The investigators classified the infants into 1 of the following 3 categories: confirmed congenital ZIKV infection based on a positive test and negative for rubella, toxoplasmosis, HIV, syphilis, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus; probable congenital ZIKV infection, indicating a previous ZIKV infection or passive immunity and negative tests for the other infections; or suspected ZIKV infection in infants that did not undergo testing for ZIKV or other disease but exhibited clinical findings suggestive of the congenital ZIKV syndrome, Freitas explained.

Findings in study infants

Fifty-six infants were included in the study, all of whom had microcephaly and other signs that are typical of CZS. The mean age at examination was 5.25 months (median, 4 months; range, 1-12 months). The mean head circumference was 28.76 centimeters (median, 29 centimeters; range, 25-31.9 centimeters).

Freitas reported that 12 (21.4%) infants had confirmed congenital ZIKV infection, 15 (26.8%) had probable infection, and 29 (51.8%) had suspected infection.

Ocular findings were identified in 24 infants (42.9%) of the 56 infants and included gross retinal pigmentation in 11 (45.8%), macular chorioretinal atrophy in 11 (45.8%), optic nerve hypoplasia in 1 (4.2%), optic nerve pallor in 14 (58.3%), and increased optic disc excavation in 2 (8.3%).

“The ocular findings were similar among the infants and consistent with those reported in the literature, regardless of the patients’ serologic confirmation or classification,” Freitas concluded. “The findings were identified frequently and the prevalent was optic nerve pallor.”

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