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Genetics and Molecular Biology

Print version ISSN 1415-4757On-line version ISSN 1678-4685


MAZZU-NASCIMENTO, Thiago et al. Teratogens: a public health issue – a Brazilian overview. Genet. Mol. Biol. [online]. 2017, vol.40, n.2, pp.387-397.  Epub May 22, 2017. ISSN 1415-4757.

Congenital anomalies are already the second cause of infant mortality in Brazil, as in many other middle-income countries in Latin America. Birth defects are a result of both genetic and environmental factors, but a multifactorial etiology has been more frequently observed. Here, we address the environmental causes of birth defects – or teratogens – as a public health issue and present their mechanisms of action, categories and their respective maternal-fetal deleterious effects. We also present a survey from 2008 to 2013 of Brazilian cases involving congenital anomalies (annual average of 20,205), fetal deaths (annual average of 1,530), infant hospitalizations (annual average of 82,452), number of deaths of hospitalized infants (annual average of 2,175), and the average cost of hospitalizations (annual cost of $7,758). Moreover, we report on Brazilian cases of teratogenesis due to the recent Zika virus infection, and to the use of misoprostol, thalidomide, alcohol and illicit drugs. Special attention has been given to the Zika virus infection, now proven to be responsible for the microcephaly outbreak in Brazil, with 8,039 cases under investigation (from October 2015 to June 2016). From those cases, 1,616 were confirmed and 324 deaths occurred due to microcephaly complications or alterations on the central nervous system. Congenital anomalies impact life quality and raise costs in specialized care, justifying the classification of teratogens as a public health issue.

Keywords : Birth defects; teratogens; Zika virus; pregnancy; public health.

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