TORCH infections in mothers

pregnant woman

TORCH does not stand for one particular disease – it actually is an acronym which represents various diseases that can affect a growing foetus inside the womb of his mother if exposed to them while still inside the uterus.

The disease which TORCH represents is as follows –

T – toxoplasmosis

O – other diseases like varicella, syphilis, HIV

R – rubella (German Measles)

C – cytomegalovirus

H – herpes simplex

Being infected with even a single one of these diseases can trigger symptoms in newborns, including reddish spots on the skin, fever, abnormally large spleen or liver, yellowish skin and eyes, autism, abnormalities in eyes, hearing impairment and any other symptoms associated with these diseases. However, the signs and symptoms depend on which pathogen is being transferred from mother to child.

For example, symptoms associated with jaundice (like the enlargement of liver or spleen) are less common in Hep B due to the fact that the immune system of a newborn is not strong enough to formulate a strong response against liver cells, as is observed in the immune systems of older children suffering from jaundice.

Often, the mother shows little to no symptoms of the above mentioned diseases. Genetic conditions are passed on from mother to child in a similar fashion.

Causes

The TORCH disease is transmitted from the placenta, through the female reproductive tract and finally to the child. A growing foetus has little or no immune system to defend itself against diseases and infections, which is why it depends on its mother’s immune system to help protect its body.

However, this does not stop pathogens from crossing the placenta and reaching the child’s system through its mother’s. Micro-organisms which might seem relatively harmful to a grown adult like a mother might actually prove to be deadly for a growing foetus, up to a point where major developmental disorders (like autism or mental retardation) might occur, and sometimes, even an abortion.

Sometimes it can happen that babies can get infected during their birth by their mother via passage from the birth canal. Infection can occur immediately after birth too.

This difference between infection during or after birth, and infection while still inside the womb is important as infections during the former stages of the child’s birth can be prevented through medical intervention.

Whenever a newborn’s examination shows signs of a TORCH infection, its blood or urine sample might be taken. In some cases, a bit of the baby’s spinal fluid is also just to make sure that the diagnosis for the TORCH diseases is precise.


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