Congenital infections

Safeguarding the gift of a healthy new life for families everywhere

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:
    Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • 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.

pregnant woman is inspected with stethoscope
The importance of equipping laboratories for increases in congenital testing

From initial screening to post-natal follow-up, laboratories serve as a lifeline for those suspected of infection.

The right information at the right time may help to improve an infant’s outcome by enabling earlier initiation of treatment.

As screening and testing strategies become more standardised globally, laboratories must be equipped to meet local demands, requiring:

Reliable results

  • Sensitive and specific assays help avoid misdiagnosis and retesting
  • Automated and standardised processes minimise human error

Easy adoption

  • Familiar workflows on existing platforms simplify training
  • Broad test menus increase consolidation and reduce the need to send out tests

Partnership and trust

  • Continued assay development to meet changing demands
  • Access to expert advice to address issues or gaps in knowledge
Pregnant woman getting a scan
Advancing women’s health with robust screening solutions

From strategic assay development and flexible system concepts to an established global infrastructure and efficient logistics, Roche is helping to ensure the delivery of timely, accurate results.

Roche’s comprehensive assay offering contains a growing number of infectious disease assays in addition to the TORCH panel (toxoplasmosis, rubella, CMV, HSV) which includes Toxo IgG Avidity and CMV IgG Avditiy assays, essential to date infections. As country-wide screening programs roll out, Roche’s fully automated platforms will help laboratories better manage the growing demand for testing.

These advancements are helping healthcare professionals address women's health challenges giving them the ability to better provide care and peace of mind to patients when welcoming a new life into the world.

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  1. Goldenberg RL, McClure EM, Saleem S, Reddy UM. Infection-related stillbirths. Lancet. 2010;375(9724):1482-90.
  2. Fenizia C, Biasin M, Cetin I, et al. Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 vertical transmission during pregnancy. Nat Commun. 2020;11:5128. 
  3. Kadambari S, Pollard AJ, Goldacre MJ, Goldacre R. Congenital viral infections in England over five decades: a population-based observational study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2020;20(2):220-229.