Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can be passed from mother to baby through the placenta during pregnancy. An infection with Toxoplasma gondii can cause eye or central nervous system infections. If acquired during the pregnancy, it may result in a miscarriage or cause birth defects. Toxoplasmosis may be acquired after ingesting the parasite through eating contaminated undercooked meat or contaminated raw fruit or vegetable, when handling the excrement of infected cats, or by drinking contaminated unpasteurised milk.
Rubella is a vaccine preventable disease caused by a virus, and is also known as German measles. If contracted early in the pregnancy the infant may develop hearing loss, vision problems, heart disease, liver or kidney disease, restricted growth, blood disorders, or pneumonia. Problems that may develop during childhood include autism, intellectual disability, immune disorders, diabetes, or thyroid disease.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a viral infection that the mother may acquire and pass to the fetus. Many adults have been infected with CMV at some point in their life and it usually causes a mild illness. It may pass to the fetus during the pregnancy, during the birth process, or infect newborns through breast milk. An infection acquired early in pregnancy may be associated with neurological problems for the baby such as seizures, hearing loss, eye disease or developmental delay. An fetus infected late in pregnancy is more likely to have hepatitis, pneumonia or blood disorders.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common viral infection. The two most common infections with HSV are 'cold sores' affecting the lips and genital herpes. Both of these infections can recur. HSV is most commonly acquired through oral or genital contact. Newborns who contract the virus usually do so during travel through the birth canal of a woman who has a genital infection with HSV. The virus may spread throughout the newborn’s body, attacking vital organs. Treatment with specific antiviral medication should begin as soon as possible in the infected newborn. Even if treated, surviving babies may have permanent damage to the central nervous system.
TORCH is an acronym for a group of four infectious diseases that may cause illness in pregnant women and may cause birth defects in their newborns depending on the stage of pregnancy when the mother is infected. The test is a screen for the presence of any of the antibodies to these infections. Confirmation of an active infection may require more specific tests.