Original Research

Neural tube defects in the Free State province from 2012 to 2016. Is there an increase?

Nické Theron, Gina Joubert, Bertram D. Henderson
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 21, No 1 | a1134 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v21i1.1134 | © 2020 Nické Theron, Gina Joubert, Bertram D. Henderson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 July 2020 | Published: 25 September 2020

About the author(s)

Nické Theron, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Gina Joubert, Department of Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Bertram D. Henderson, Division of Clinical Genetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Background: Neural tube defects (NTDs) are anomalies of the central nervous system caused by the defective closure of the neural tube during early embryogenesis. A significant decline in the incidence of NTDs after folic acid fortification of food in South Africa was previously shown. Recently, clinical geneticists have voiced concerns that there is a possible resurgence in the number of NTDs.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of NTDs at a South African Hospital from 2012 to 2016.

Methods: This is a retrospective cross-sectional study where all babies with NTDs born in, or referred to Universitas Hospital were included as study participants. Information was collected for both the mother and the baby from hospital records and data forms.

Results: Seventy-seven cases of NTDs were captured from 2012 to 2016. The incidence of NTDs was 0.34/1000 births in the Free State province, and 1.21/1000 births if only the data for babies born in Universitas Hospital and Pelonomi Hospital were used. Further analysis showed a male: female ratio of 1:1. Open spina bifida was the most common defect at 71.4%.

Conclusion: The incidence of NTDs in the Free State province was low compared to other South African and international studies. The incidence for the metropolitan hospitals is comparable to that of previous studies. This discrepancy is a marker of poor data recording and will impact healthcare planning. A statistically significant increase in NTDs could not be proven.


neural tube defects; birth defects; data collection; Free State province; South Africa; antiretroviral treatment


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Crossref Citations

1. Burden of Neural Tube Defects and Their Associated Factors in Africa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Reta Wakoya, Mekbeb Afework, Parth Bhatt
International Journal of Pediatrics  vol: 2023  first page: 1  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1155/2023/9635827