Zika virus seroprevalence declines and neutralization antibodies wane in adults following outbreaks in French Polynesia and Fiji

15 Mar 2019
Henderson AD, Aubry M, Kama M, Vanhomwegen J, Teissier A, Mariteragi-Helle T, Paoaafaite T, Manuguerra J-C, Edmunds WJ, Whitworth J, Watson CH, Lau CL, Cao-Lormeau V-M, Kucharski AJ,

Background: Serosurveys published following major outbreaks of Zika virus (ZIKV) have so far shown a high level of seroprevalence from samples collected within 12 months of the first confirmed case. A common assumption is that ZIKV infection confers long-term protection against reinfection, preventing ZIKV from re-emerging in previously affected areas for many years. However, the long-term immune response to ZIKV following an outbreak remains poorly documented.

Methods: We compared results from eight serological surveys, with sample sizes ranging from 49 to 700, before and after known ZIKV outbreaks in the Pacific region: five from cross-sectional studies of schoolchildren and the general population in French Polynesia over a seven-year period; and three from a longitudinal cohort in Fiji over a four-year period.

Findings: We found strong evidence of a decline in seroprevalence in both countries over a two-year period following first reported ZIKV transmission. In the cohort in Fiji, there was also a significant decline in antibody titres against ZIKV. However, the decline in seroprevalence was concentrated in adults, while high seroprevalence persisted in children.

Interpretation: The observed patterns of long-term anti-ZIKV antibody levels following outbreaks in the Pacific could be an early indication of the dynamics of population immunity in Latin America. Given that ZIKV antibody levels can wane substantially over time, follow-up seroprevalence studies and prospective clinical trial designs in Latin America may need to be revised, and assumptions about the potential for ZIKV to re-emerge may need to be revisited