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Information about Torch
Health & Medicine

Published on February 18, 2014

Author: iyerbk



Of use to O&G and other clinicians

TORCH Foreword Infections acquired in utero or during the birth process are a significant cause of fetal and neonatal mortality and an important contributor to early and later childhood morbidity. The original concept of the TORCH perinatal infections was to group 5 infections with similar presentations, including rash and ocular findings. Introduction The TORCH test, which is sometimes called the TORCH panel is actually a category of blood tests called Infectious-Disease Antibody Titer tests [IDAT]. TORCH tests measure the presence of antibodies against a specific group of infectious diseases and their level of concentration in the blood. TORCH is an acronym for a group of 5 infectious diseases: • Toxoplasmosis • Other (Syphilis) • Rubella (German measles) • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) • Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) These 5 diseases are relevant as 1. Each disease may be teratogenic; 2. Each crosses the placenta; 3. Each may adversely affect the developing foetus; 4. The effect of each varies, depending on developmental stage at time of exposure. All are grouped together because they can cause a cluster of symptomatic birth defects in newborns, collectively called the TORCH syndrome. The guiding reasons to think of TORCH infections could be: • IUGR infants • Hepatosplenomegaly • Thrombocytopenia • Unusual rash • Bad maternal obstetric history [BOH] • Classic findings of any specific infection Bad obstetric history (BOH) implies previous unfavourable foetal outcome in terms of 2 or more consecutive spontaneous abortion, history of intrauterine foetal death, intrauterine growth retardation, still births, early neonatal death and / or congenital anomalies. Cause of BOH may be genetic, hormonal, abnormal maternal immune response and maternal infection. Recurrent pregnancy wastage due to maternal infections transmissible in utero at various stage of gestation can be caused by a wide array of organisms which include the TORCH complex. Background of TORCH diseases Toxoplasmosis Caused by Toxoplasma gondii, and is found in human worldwide, a parasite that the mother can acquire from handling infected cats, drinking unpasteurized milk, or eating contaminated meat. The 1

infection is carried to the infant through the mother's placenta, and can cause infections of the eyes or central nervous system. The later in pregnancy that the mother is infected, the higher the probability that the fetus will be infected. On the other hand, toxoplasmosis early in pregnancy is more likely to cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects. Syphilis This disease is added to the TORCH panel because of a rapid increase in reported cases since 1990. It is also a potentially lifethreatening infection for the fetus. Rubella This is a virus that has a seasonal pattern, with epidemics most likely in the spring. Between 0.1-2% of newborns will be infected with rubella. The rate of fetal infection varies according to the timing of the mother's infection during pregnancy. Birth defects, however, are most likely (85%) in infants infected during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Cytomegalovirus This is also a virus belonging to the herpesvirus group. It can be (CMV) transmitted through body secretions, as well as by sexual contact; some newborns which acquire CMV through the mother's breast milk. Infected infants may have severe problems, such as hearing loss, mental retardation, pneumonia, hepatitis, or blood disorders. Herpes simplex This is also a virus that enters the infant through his eyes, skin, mouth, and upper respiratory tract. About 20% of infants born with HSV infection will have localized infections of the eyes, mouth, or skin and about 50% of infected infants will develop disease spread throughout the body (disseminated) within (9-11) days after birth. HSV-2 is sexually transmitted. Symptoms include genital ulcers or sores. In addition to oral and genital sores, the virus can also lead to complications such as infection of the lining of the brain and the brain itself (meningoencephalitis) or infection of the eye especially the conjunctiva and cornea. Mode of transmission Toxoplasmosis • • • • Rubella • • Cytomegalo • virus • • Herpes virus Syphilis • • Handling of excrement of infected cats, Drinking unpasteurized goat’s milk, Eating contaminated meat. Salivary secretions Secretions from cutaneous ulcers. Cervical secretions Sexual contact; Blood & its products Time to perform 1. As a routine at the time of 1st antenatal visit; 2

2. Repeat Ig G (Serum) at mid trimester. (possibility of seroconversion); 3. In a suspected pregnancy case, where patients shows Flu-like symptoms & rash while pregnant; 4. Amniotic fluid testing later. 5. Cord blood to know fetal infection. Result interpretation 1. Serial serological testing (ELISA) is preferable and diagnosis of acute infection is made at <12 weeks of gestation if it is +ve for IgG & IgM antibodies. 2. If IgM is -ve & IgG is +ve, repeat after 3 weeks and check for 4-fold rise. 3. If -ve in early pregnancy, perform test at 18-20 weeks of gestation. (Joul. Of OBGI Feb-2006). Summary TORCH screening is now accepted by clinicians as a reliable test for investigating pregnant women and infants for congenital, perinatal and neonatal TORCH infections. The IgG antibody in the pregnant woman may be a sign of past infection with one of these infectious agents. By testing a second blood sample drawn 2 weeks later, the level of antibody can be compared. If the second blood draw shows an increase in IgG antibody, it may indicate a recent infection with the infectious agent. IgM is never zero as it cross-reacts with many other IgMs and other proteins. IgM is a specific class of antibodies that seeks out virus particles. It is, therefore, the most useful indicator of the presence of a TORCH infection. Any general abnormal or positive presence gives high levels of IgM finding. IgM antibodies against TORCH organisms usually persist for about 3 months, while IgG antibodies remain detectable for a lifetime, providing immunity and preventing or reducing the severity of reinfection. Thus, 1. If IgM antibodies are present in a pregnant woman, a current or recent infection with the organism has occurred. 2. If IgM antibodies are absent and IgG antibodies are present and do not demonstrate an increase on serial testing several weeks later, it can be assumed that the person has had a previous infection by the corresponding organism, or has been vaccinated to prevent an infection. 3. If the serum of a person has no evidence of either IgM or IgG antibodies specific for the organism, then the person is at risk of infection because they do not have any demonstrable immunity. Reference: 1. Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology, (2002) 20 (1): 57-58, Prevalence of torch infections in Indian pregnant women, S Singh 2. Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology, (2003) 21 (2):108-110, seroprevalence of torch infection in bad obstetric history, D Turbadkar, M Mathur, M Rele. 3

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