TORCH Syndrome

TORCH infections are the term given to a group of infectious diseases that can be passed to your baby during pregnancy, at delivery or after birth. TORCH stands for toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes and other agents.

Causes of TORCH Syndrome


A virus spread through sexual contact or direct contact with HIV-infected blood (like from sharing needles). Most HIV infections in children occur in the third trimester, during or after delivery when the birthing parent isn’t on the appropriate medications.


A sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. You can get it from direct contact with syphilis sores during anal, vaginal or oral sex. Congenital syphilis is on the rise and babies are getting the infection in the birth canal.

Fifth disease

A mild rash caused by parvovirus B19. It spreads through saliva and mucus when an infected person coughs or sneezes.


A highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). In most cases, getting chickenpox once in your lifetime (usually as a child) or getting vaccinated against the disease gives you immunity for life.

Zika virus

A virus spread by an infected mosquito in areas where the virus is common. It can also be passed through sex with an infected person.

Symptoms of TORCH Syndrome

  • Fever, sluggishness and trouble feeding.

  • Jaundice.

  • Low birth weight.

  • Hearing impairment.

  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).

  • Small red or brown spots (purpura).

  • Bluish or purplish spots called “blueberry rash.”

  • Hepatosplenomegaly (enlarged liver).

  • Cataracts.

  • Microcephaly (a small head).

Diagnosis of TORCH Syndrome

  • TORCH infections are diagnosed through blood tests, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and viral cultures.

  • A viral culture is when your healthcare provider takes a sample of fluid, cells or tissue from your body and tests it for infectious diseases.

  • Common areas include saliva from your mouth, mucus from your nose, blood, pee, amniotic fluid or fluid from a skin rash or sore.

  • PCR tests work by detecting the genetic material of a virus in a fluid sample.

Treatment of TORCH Syndrome

  • Treatment for TORCH infections depends on the disease, when the infection occurred and the severity of symptoms.

  • It may include antibiotics, antiparasitics or antiviral medications.

  • Some TORCH infections are viruses and don’t have treatment other than rest and hydration.

  • If you’re diagnosed with a TORCH infection, your provider will monitor your pregnancy and consult with maternal-fetal medicine specialists.

  • Depending on the condition, your baby may need immediate medical attention or care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at birth.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed and have one of the TORCH infections during pregnancy.

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