Fetal Rubella (Congenital Rubella Syndrome)
Fetal rubella (aka congenital rubella syndrome) (aka the rubella syndrome) is a constellation of abnormalities caused by infection with the rubella (German measles) virus before birth. The syndrome is characterized by multiple congenital malformations and mental retardation. The individual features of the syndrome include growth retardation, microcephaly (abnormally small head), glaucoma, cataracts, microphthalmia (abnormally small eyes), hearing loss, cardiovascular malformations, and mental retardation. Deafness is common. After birth the child may develop diabetes due to destruction of the pancreas by the rubella virus. If the mother is infected with rubella in the first trimester (the first third) of pregnancy, the child has a 50% risk of being born with the congenital rubella syndrome. Risks also exist with infection in the second trimester The rubella epidemic of 1963-1965 resulted in 1.8 million infected individuals, approximately 20,000 fetal deaths and about 30,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome. Since the introduction of the rubella vaccine in 1969 there are less than 120 cases of congenital rubella syndrome reported each year. The discovery of the congenital rubella syndrome by the Australian ophthalmologist NM Gregg in 1941 is of historic importance because it provided the first evidence that the placental barrier between the mother and the fetus does not fully protect the fetus from teratogens (agents that can cause birth defects).