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Zika virus infection as a cause of congenital brain abnormalities and Guillain-Barré syndrome: From systematic review to living systematic review

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Counotte Michel Jacques, Egli-Gany Dianne, Riesen Maurane, Abraha Million, Porgo Teegwendé Valérie, Wang Jingying, Low Nicola,
Project Zika virus: assessing causality and consequences of emerging infectious diseases
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal F1000Research
Volume (Issue) 7
Page(s) 196 - 196
Title of proceedings F1000Research
DOI 10.12688/f1000research.13704.1

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Background. The Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak in the Americas has caused international concern due to neurological sequelae linked to the infection, such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). The World Health Organization stated that there is “sufficient evidence to conclude that Zika virus is a cause of congenital abnormalities and is a trigger of GBS”. This conclusion was based on a systematic review of the evidence published until 30.05.2016. Since then, the body of evidence has grown substantially, leading to this update of that systematic review with new evidence published from 30.05.2016 – 18.01.2017, update 1. Methods. We review evidence on the causal link between ZIKV infection and adverse congenital outcomes and the causal link between ZIKV infection and GBS or immune-mediated thrombocytopaenia purpura. We also describe the transition of the review into a living systematic review, a review that is continually updated. Results. Between 30.05.2016 and 18.01.2017, we identified 2413 publications, of which 101 publications were included. The evidence added in this update confirms the conclusion of a causal association between ZIKV and adverse congenital outcomes. New findings expand the evidence base in the dimensions of biological plausibility, strength of association, animal experiments and specificity. For GBS, the body of evidence has grown during the search period for update 1, but only for dimensions that were already populated in the previous version. There is still a limited understanding of the biological pathways that potentially cause the occurrence of autoimmune disease following ZIKV infection. Conclusions. This systematic review confirms previous conclusions that ZIKV is a cause of congenital abnormalities, including microcephaly, and is a trigger of GBS. The transition to living systematic review techniques and methodology provides a proof of concept for the use of these methods to synthesise evidence about an emerging pathogen such as ZIKV.