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Seroepidemiology of Dengue, Zika, and Yellow Fever Viruses among Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Authors: Willcox AC, Collins MH, Jadi R, Keeler C, Parr JB, Mumba D, Kashamuka M, Tshefu A, de Silva AM, and Meshnick SR
Source: American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Online first; DOI: 10.4269/ajtmh.18-0156
Topic(s): Child health
Country: Africa
  Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Published: JUL 2018
Abstract: 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.