TORCH Syndrome refers to any of a group of infections in newborns due to one of the TORCH infectious agents having crossed the placenta during pregnancy. The acronym TORCH refers to (T)oxoplasmosis, (O)ther Agents, (R)ubella (or German Measles), (C)ytomegalovirus, and (H)erpes Simplex.
If a developing fetus is infected by a TORCH agent, the outcome of the pregnancy may be miscarriage, stillbirth, delayed fetal growth and maturation (intrauterine growth retardation), or early delivery. In addition, newborns infected by any one of the TORCH agents may develop a spectrum of similar symptoms and findings. These may include listlessness (lethargy), fever, difficulties feeding, enlargement of the liver and spleen (hepatomegaly), and decreased levels of the oxygen-carrying pigment (hemoglobin) in the blood (anemia). In addition, affected infants may develop areas of bleeding, resulting in reddish or purplish spots or areas of discoloration visible through the skin (petechia or purpura); yellowish discoloration of the skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes (jaundice); inflammation of the middle and innermost layers of the eyes (chorioretinitis); and/or other symptoms and findings. Each infectious agent may also cause additional abnormalities that may vary in degree and severity, depending upon the stage of fetal development at time of infection and/or other factors. Following is a more specific description of the TORCH agents.
Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by the microscopic parasitic organism called Toxoplasma gondii. This parasitic infection, found worldwide, may be acquired or transmitted to the developing fetus from an infected mother during pregnancy. In some severely affected newborns, Toxoplasmosis may be associated with abnormal smallness of the head (microcephaly), inflammation of the middle and innermost layers of the eyes (chorioretinitis), calcium deposits in the brain (intracranial calcifications), and/or other abnormalities. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Toxoplasmosis” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Rubella is a viral infection characterized by fever, upper respiratory infection, swelling of the lymph nodes, skin rash, and joint pain. Severely affected newborns and infants may have visual and/or hearing impairment, heart defects, calcium deposits in the brain, and/or other abnormalities. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Rubella” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection is a viral infection that may occur during pregnancy, after birth, or at any age. In severely affected newborns, associated symptoms and findings may include growth retardation, an abnormally small head (microcephaly), enlargement of the liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly), inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), low levels of the oxygen-carrying pigment in the blood due to premature destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), calcium deposits in the brain, and/or other abnormalities. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Cytomegalovirus” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Neonatal Herpes is a rare disorder affecting newborns infected with the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). This disorder may vary from mild to severe. In most cases, the disorder is transmitted to an infant from an infected mother with active genital lesions at the time of delivery. In the event that a mother has a severe primary genital outbreak, it is possible that a mother may transmit the infection to the fetus. After delivery, direct contact with either genital or oral herpes sores may result in neonatal herpes. Severely affected newborns may develop fluid-filled blisters on the skin (cutaneous vesicles), lesions in the mouth area, inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the eyelids and whites of the eyes (conjunctivitis), abnormally diminished muscle tone, inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), difficulties breathing, and/or other symptoms and findings. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Neonatal Herpes” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.