Pregnancy / Childbirth

What is TORCH? And why is it dangerous in pregnancy?


Often, in the context of pregnancy, you can find the term TORCH syndrome (in some studies, the authors use the term TORCHS). Under this mysterious concept is hidden abbreviation formed from the first letters of the names of the most common infectious agentsthat can lead to intrauterine infection of the childand, consequently, to he has severe birth defects or other complications. So, how to properly understand the term TORCH syndrome, what are the consequences of its occurrence for the health of the toddler and how to prevent it?

What is the TORCH syndrome?

The term TORCH syndrome (TORCHS) is an abbreviation formed from the first letters of the names of the most common and also the most dangerous for the fetus pathogens that can attack it during intrauterine life.

  • T - Toxoplasma gondii - a cat-borne protozoan that causes a disease called toxoplasmosis. The disease in pregnant women is most often asymptomatic, but in the fetus it can cause many pathologies (including microcephaly, oligocephalus, calcification in the brain, inflammation of the eye structures, or delay in subsequent psychomotor development).
  • O - Others) - a group of pathogens that are dangerous to the toddler, which includes, among others, hepatitis B virus, EBV virus (mononucleosis etiological factor), pox virus, measles virus, or human parvovirus B19 (virus responsible for the occurrence of infectious erythema also fifth disease).
  • R - Rubivirus - a virus that causes rubella, which is popular with children. Infection with it during pregnancy threatens the fetus with heart defects, eye pathologies, subsequent deafness, or many other abnormalities (including liver, lung, kidney, and bone deformities).
  • C - CMV (cytomegalovirus) - the most common etiological factor of intrauterine viral infections. CMV infection during the first period of pregnancy may result in fetal malformations, intracranial calcifications and microcephaly. However, if infection occurs in the second half of pregnancy, it is more likely to occur as an organ-localized disease (for example, pneumonia or hepatitis).
  • H - HSV (Herpes simplex virus) - a common virus among adults that is deadly to the fetus (especially in the first half of pregnancy). Infection with it can result in spontaneous miscarriage (50% of cases of HSV infection before 20 weeks of gestation), premature delivery, low birth weight of the newborn (30% of children infected with HSV), or a whole range of birth defects (including scars on the skin, hydrocephalus, uropathy). focal necrosis in the central nervous system).
  • S - Syphilis (syphilis caused by pale spirochetes) - this also includes other sexually transmitted diseases (for example, gonorrhea). Similarly to the previously presented infections, it can lead to miscarriage or fetal birth defects (congenital deafness and eye changes are characteristic for syphilis).

TORCH syndrome is not one specific disease entity, but only a certain category of diseases for which the common denominator is the presence of intrauterine fetal infection.

TORCH syndrome - how to prevent it?

There are no one hundred percent effective methods to prevent TORCH infections, but fortunately, you can significantly reduce their risk. Here are some tips for future parents:

  • Preventive examinations before pregnancy - it is recommended to perform a TORCH test panel before a planned pregnancy. This allows the detection of a possible infection or carrier of one of the pathogens (for example Toxoplasma), and thus the implementation of appropriate treatment. What's more, preventive tests before pregnancy also allow you to determine the level of specific antibodies that protect the body of the mother and the fetus from specific diseases (for example, rubella or measles) and select those pathogens for which the future mother should vaccinate.
  • Avoiding factors favoring infection - pregnant women should avoid contact with sick people and animals, use appropriate prophylaxis during sexual contact, and not eat raw meat or unwashed vegetables and fruits.
  • Preventive examinations during pregnancy - TORCH infections are usually asymptomatic or scanty. Consequently, during pregnancy, the TORCH test panel should be performed again.

To sum up, the TORCH team is a huge threat to the life and health of the unborn toddler. Therefore, it is extremely important to be aware of its existence and ways to minimize its risk, which in a significant number of cases can protect the child from its very dangerous consequences.

Bibliography:Pediatrics by Wanda KawalecGynecology and obstetrics by Grzegorz H. Bręborowicz