Neurodevelopmental outcomes in congenital and perinatal infections

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Current opinion in infectious diseases




PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Congenital infections are a major cause of childhood multidomain neurodevelopmental disabilities. They contribute to a range of structural brain abnormalities that can cause severe neurodevelopmental impairment, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and neurosensory impairments. New congenital infections and global viral pandemics have emerged, with some affecting the developing brain and causing neurodevelopmental concerns. This review aims to provide current understanding of fetal infections and their impact on neurodevelopment. RECENT FINDINGS: There are a growing list of congenital infections causing neurodevelopmental issues, including cytomegalovirus, Zika virus, syphilis, rubella, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, and toxoplasmosis. Fetal exposure to maternal SARS-CoV-2 may also pose risk to the developing brain and impact neurodevelopmental outcomes, although studies have conflicting results. As Zika virus was a recently identified congenital infection, there are several new reports on child neurodevelopment in the Caribbean and Central and South America. For many congenital infections, children with in-utero exposure, even if asymptomatic at birth, may have neurodevelopmental concerns manifest over time. SUMMARY: Congenital infections should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a child with neurodevelopmental impairments. Detailed pregnancy history, exposure risk, and testing should guide diagnosis and multidisciplinary evaluation. Children with congenital infections should have long-term follow-up to assess for neurodevelopmental delays and other neurosensory impairments. Children with confirmed delays or high-risk should be referred for rehabilitation therapies.