Seroprevalence of rubella virus antibodies among pregnant women in the Center and South-West regions of Cameroon

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Rubella infection in early pregnancy can lead to miscarriages, fetal death, or birth of an infant with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). In Cameroon, like in many developing countries, rubella surveillance is not well-established. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of rubella virus specific antibodies among pregnant Cameroonians.

We conducted a cross-sectional study for rubella infection among pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in the Center and South-West regions of Cameroon. Demographic data and blood were collected and tested for rubella specific antibodies (IgG and IgM), and for the IgM positive cases, IgG avidity and real time PCR was done.

From December 2015 to July 2017, 522 serum samples were collected and tested from pregnant women. The seroprevalence of rubella specific IgG was 94.4%, presumably due to immunity induced by wild-type rubella virus. The seroprevalence of rubella specific IgM was 5.0%, possibly indicating rubella infection. However, IgG avidity testing of the IgM positive cases detected high avidity IgGs, ranging from 52.37% to 87.70%, indicating past rubella infection. 5.6% (29/522) of the participants had negative results for IgG to rubella virus, indicating susceptibility to rubella infection. None of the participants had received a rubella containing vaccine (RCV), but 51% (266/522) of the pregnant women lived in a house with a child with records of at least one dose of RCV. Rubella virus RNA was not detected in the urine of any IgM positive case.

Findings from this study show that rubella infection is significant in Cameroon. Some pregnant women are still susceptible to rubella infection. For a better management of rubella infection in pregnancy in Cameroon, consideration should be taken to investigate for IgGavidity test in cases with positive rubella IgM result to distinguish between recent from past rubella infection.

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