TORCH complex or TORCH infections is the medical acronym for a group of bacterial, viral, and protozoan infections that can be passed from the placenta of the pregnant mother into the blood stream of the fetus. TORCH infections can result in severe abnormalities in the baby or it can even cause fetal death.
The TORCH complex is spelled out as:
- T – Toxoplasmosis.
- O – Other infections (varicella zoster virus, HIV, coxsackie virus, syphilis, parvo virus B19. Hepatitis virus is also occasionally included; however, hepatitis B virus is rather big, and cannot cross the placenta and cannot affect the baby unless there is a break in the maternal and fetal barrier.)
- R – Rubella.
- C – Hytomegalo virus.
- H – Herpes simplex virus 2.
The transmission of the infection via blood may occur during gestation or infrequently at the time of delivery through maternal to fetal transfusion. Timely diagnosis of these infections is very important to the commencement of proper treatment. A high index of doubt for neonatal infection and alertness of the major features of the most common infections helps facilitate quick diagnosis of the infection.
Signs And Symptoms Of TORCH Infections
Symptoms and manifestations of a TORCH infection are: fever and reduced feeding. The baby is frequently small for gestational age, which is often indicative of poor nutritional supply during pregnancy. Some of the common symptoms include,
- The skin will show petechiae rash, i.e. tiny red – purple spots because of bleeding from the capillaries under the skin.
- Enlargement of the liver and spleen is very commonly seen. Jaundice is another frequently seen feature which is characterized by yellowish pigmentation of the skin and the sclera.
- There will be eye problems, impairment of hearing, autism, mental retardation.
- Severe cases are associated with reports of fetal death within a few weeks after birth.
The mother will have only a mild infection with hardly any or no symptoms at all.
In case the physical examination of a newborn shows signs of TORCH infections, your health care provider will order blood tests, urine test, and spinal fluid examination for verification of the infections of TORCH syndrome. Diagnosis is substantiated by culture of one of the specific pathogens or by raised levels of IgM against the pathogen. A pap test of the mother during pregnancy will help reveal infection with herpes simplex virus.
Treatment For TORCH Infection
Early diagnosis of the offending organism and quick and suitable treatment regimen are very essential.
Certain TORCH infections, such as, syphilis and toxoplasmosis can be successfully treated and managed with appropriate antibiotics, in case the mother is diagnosed with the infection early during the pregnancy. Many of the viral infections of the TORCH syndrome have no effective treatment at all, but some, particularly rubella virus and varicella zoster virus, can be averted by giving the mother vaccine prior to the pregnancy.
In case the mother is diagnosed with active herpes simplex, delivering the baby via C section will prevent the newborn from coming in contact with the virus. Each type of the TORCH infections has a singular outcome and prognosis. The stage of pregnancy at the time of infection influences the effect on the baby.