Prenatal screening programs are critically important to prevent, treat and manage congenital infections in newborns.
Congenital infections are vertically transmitted from mother to foetus during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding and include diseases such as toxoplasmosis, HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis, chagas, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus (TORCH).
These infections are major contributors of perinatal morbidity and mortality, accounting for up to 50% of stillbirths in low and middle-income countries, and 10-25% in high-income countries.1 Access to prenatal screening programs for congenital infections can prevent mother to foetus transmission, and guide adequate and timely treatment and/or counselling.
Women can be infected with several pathogens, that can be transmitted to their foetuses during pregnancy. Amongst others women can be infected via:
- Exposure to vectors:
Zika, chagas, dengue
- Sexual transmission:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), hepatitis, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), syphilis
- Contact with body fluids like saliva:
- Zoonotic transmission:
- Respiratory infection:
Rubella and (possibly) SARS-CoV-22
Since the early 2000's, the incidence of congenital CMV, HSV and varicella-zoster virus (VZV) diagnosed in neonates has increased by about 300%.3 In that time, rubella infections decreased due to the success of the measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine.3
Screening is an important strategy to prevent and reduce the burden of congenital infections, in particular for diseases where treatments or vaccinations are not available.