Pathogenesis of Congenital Infections

  • Joseph B. CanteyEmail author


An assortment of words are used to describe infections of the fetus and newborn, including—but not limited to—“congenital,” “in utero,” “transplacental,” “ascending,” “perinatal,” and the useful but increasingly antiquated acronym “TORCH.” This chapter aims to simplify the terminology and explain the shared pathogenesis of congenital infections as well as the clinical variation between infected mothers and their infants. Why do some infections reach the fetus while others do not? Why do some infants have obvious clinical illness while others are asymptomatic? These questions and more are discussed here.


Congenital Fetus Infection Perinatal Placenta 


  1. 1.
    Cantey JB, Sanchez PJ. Overview of congenital infections: the prominence of cytomegalovirus. Infect Disord Drug Targets. 2011;11:426–31.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bonney EA. Immune regulation in pregnancy: a matter of perspective? Obstet Gynecol Clin N Am. 2016;43:679–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rowe JH, Ertelt JM, Xin L, Way SS. Regulatory T cells and the immune pathogenesis of prenatal infection. Reproduction. 2013;146:R191–203.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Arora N, Sadovsky Y, Dermody TS, Coyne CB. Microbial vertical transmission during human pregnancy. Cell Host Microbe. 2017;21:561–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Zhang J, Dunk C, Croy AB, Lye SJ. To serve and protect: the role of decidual innate immune cells on human pregnancy. Cell Tissue Res. 2016;363:249–65.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Robbins JR, Bakardjiev AI. Pathogens and the placental fortress. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2012;15:36–43.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Qin J, Yang T, Xiao S, et al. Reported estimates of adverse pregnancy outcomes among women with and without syphilis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9:e102203.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Robertson SA, Chin PY, Femia JG, Brown HM. Embryotoxic cytokines – potential roles in embryo loss and fetal programming. J Reprod Immunol. 2017;124:80–8.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Boyle AK, Rinaldi SF, Norman JE, Stock SJ. Preterm birth: inflammation, fetal injury and treatment strategies. J Reprod Immunol. 2017;119:62–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Resnik R. Intrauterine growth restriction. Obstet Gynecol. 2002;99:490–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fowler KB. Congenital cytomegalovirus infection: audiologic outcome. Clin Infect Dis. 2013;57:S178–81.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Braccio S, Sharland M, Ladhani SN. Prevention and treatment of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis. Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2016;29:268–74.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mets MB. Eye manifestations of intrauterine infections. Ophthalmol Clin N Am. 2001;14:521–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Divisions of Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine and Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Department of PediatricsUniversity of Texas Health Science Center San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

Personalised recommendations