TORCH Antibodies Among Pregnant Women and Their Newborns Receiving Care at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Moshi, Tanzania

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Aliasgher M Saajan
Mramba Nyindo
Joshua G Gidabayda
Mohammed S Abdallah
Shaneabbas H Jaffer
Aliasgher G Mukhtar
Tima M Khatibu
Grace D Kinabo
Blandina T Mmbaga


Background: Toxoplasmosis, other (syphilis, varicella-zoster, parvovirus B19, and hepatitis B), rubella, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) – known by the acronym TORCH – is a group of infections affecting both mothers and their unborn babies with adverse short- and long-term outcomes. The majority of infected mothers are asymptomatic, which leaves only speculation as to the probable cause of many congenital anomalies, stillbirths, prematurity, and death resulting from TORCH infections. The main objective of this study was to investigate previous exposure to TORCH infections by measuring the seroprevalence of TORCH antibodies in pregnant women and their newborns receiving care at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), Moshi, Tanzania.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional, hospital-based study conducted at KCMC from December 2013 to April 2014. Of 350 pregnant women enrolled in the study, we tested 347 pregnant women attending the antenatal clinic and who opted to deliver at KCMC. Cord blood was collected and analysed for 309 of their newborns. To identify immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies in mothers and IgM antibodies in newborns, we used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay testing. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data of mothers and their newborns. Data analysis was done using SPSS version 20.

Results: The seroprevalence of IgG antibodies to TORCH infections among pregnant women was 154 (44.4%) for toxoplasmosis, 311 (89.6%) for rubella, 343 (98.6%) for CMV, and 346 (99.7%) for HSV-1 and HSV-2; 141 (40.6%) had been exposed to all 4 infections. For HSV-1 and HSV-2, the IgM antibodies were found in 137 (39.5%) of the 347 pregnant women included in this study. Age above 35 years (OR 6.15; 95% CI, 1.22–31.1; P=.028) and multiparity (OR 1.63; 95% CI, 1.01–2.62; P=.045) were associated with higher risk of being exposed to all TORCH infections. A total of 11 newborns had IgM antibodies to HSV-1 and HSV-2 giving a seroprevalence of 3.6%, and one newborn had IgM antibodies to rubella, giving a seroprevalence of 0.3%. None of the newborns had antibodies to toxoplasmosis and CMV.

Conclusions: Exposure to TORCH infections was high among pregnant women in our population. Older age and multiparity were associated with a higher risk of being exposed to all TORCH infections. Seroprevalence to HSV-1 and HSV-2 was high in newborns. The higher IgM antibodies to HSV-1 and HSV-2 among pregnant mothers and their newborns may disturb maternal, fetal, and neonatal health, and therefore we recommend establishing treatment protocol to support management of pregnant women and newborns who are seropositive for IgM antibodies.

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