BACKGROUND. Congenital West Nile virus (WNV) infection was first described in a single case in 2002. The proportion of maternal WNV infections resulting in congenital infection and clinical consequences of such infections are unknown.
METHODS. In 2003 and 2004, women in the United States who acquired WNV infection during pregnancy were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by state health departments. Data on pregnancy outcomes were collected. One of the maternal WNV infections was identified retrospectively after the infant was born. Maternal sera, placenta, umbilical cord tissue, and cord serum were tested for WNV infection by using serologic assays and reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. Infant health was assessed at delivery and through 12 months of age.
RESULTS. Seventy-seven women infected with WNV during pregnancy were clinically followed in 16 states. A total of 71 women delivered 72 live infants; 4 women had miscarriages, and 2 had elective abortions. Of the 72 live infants, 67 were born at term, and 4 were preterm; gestational age was unknown for 1. Of 55 live infants from whom cord serum was available, 54 tested negative for anti-WNV IgM. One infant born with umbilical hernia and skin tags had anti-WNV IgM in cord serum but not in peripheral serum at age 1 month. An infant who had no anti-WNV IgM in cord blood, but whose mother had WNV illness 6 days prepartum, developed WNV meningitis at age 10 days. Another infant, whose mother had acute WNV illness at delivery, was born with a rash and coarctation of the aorta and had anti-WNV IgM in serum at 1 month of age; cord serum was not available. A fourth infant, whose mother had onset of WNV illness 3 weeks prepartum that was not diagnosed until after delivery, had WNV encephalitis and underlying lissencephaly detected at age 17 days and subsequently died; cord serum was not available. The following major malformations were noted among live-born infants: aortic coarctation (n = 1); cleft palate (n = 1); Down syndrome (n = 1); lissencephaly (n = 1); microcephaly (n = 2); and polydactyly (n = 1). One infant had glycogen storage disease type 1. Abnormal growth was noted in 8 infants.
CONCLUSIONS. Of 72 infants followed to date in 2003 and 2004, almost all seemed normal, and none had conclusive laboratory evidence of congenital WNV infection. Three infants had WNV infection that could have been congenitally acquired. Seven infants had major malformations, but only 3 of these had defects that could have been caused by maternal WNV infection based on the timing of the infections and the sensitive developmental period for the specific malformations, and none had any conclusive evidence of WNV etiology. However, the sensitivity and specificity of IgM testing of cord blood to detect congenital WNV infection are currently unknown, and congenital WNV infection among newborns with IgM-negative serology cannot be ruled out. Prospective studies comparing pregnancy outcomes of WNV-infected and -uninfected women are needed to better define the outcomes of WNV infection during pregnancy.