Fetal and neonatal abnormalities due to congenital herpes simplex virus infection: a literature review.


Objective: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection during pregnancy can cause severe neonatal infections. It is also a rare cause of congenital infections. We aimed to describe fetal and neonatal abnormalities of congenital HSV infection in order to define the features that are accessible to prenatal diagnosis during ultrasound screening and/or during a work-up for congenital malformations.

Methods: We analysed all cases of congenital HSV infection (CHI) described before and/or after birth and identified in Pubed and classified the findings as accessible or not to prenatal diagnosis.

Results: Thirty-six cases of congenital herpes infection were reported, of which 15 were described prenatally and 21 postnatally. The most frequently reported malformations accessible to prenatal diagnosis were cerebral anomalies. The most common abnormalities described after birth were skin lesions and keratitis, which are not considered amenable to prenatal ultrasound detection. CHI can due to either HSV1 or HSV2 infection, whether primary or non-primary infection, with or without the presence of maternal symptoms.

Conclusion: Prenatal ultrasound abnormalities due to CHI are rare, varied and non-specific. There is no clear role for fetal ultrasound in the routine management of women with primary or non-primary HSV infection in pregnancy. However, in fetuses with ultrasound abnormalities suggestive of congenital infection, HSV should still be considered as a differential diagnosis after the more common in utero infections, such as cytomegalovirus, are excluded.