The TORCH panel is a group of tests used to screen newborns and, sometimes, pregnant women for certain infections that can cause birth defects in a baby if the mother contracts them during the pregnancy. The blood tests that make up the panel are for:
• Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
• Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
• Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can be passed from mother to baby through the placenta during pregnancy. An infection with Toxoplasma gondii can cause eye and central nervous system infections as well as brain and muscle cysts. If acquired during the pregnancy, it may result in a miscarriage or cause birth defects, though this depends on the time during the pregnancy when the infection was acquired by the mother. Toxoplasmosis is acquired by ingesting the parasite when handling the stool of infected cats, drinking unpasteurized goat’s milk and, most commonly, by eating contaminated meat.
• Rubella is the virus that causes German measles. If contracted early in the pregnancy, an infant may develop heart disease, retarded growth, hearing loss, blood disorders, vision problems, or pneumonia. Problems that may develop during childhood include central nervous system disease, immune disorders, or thyroid disease.
• Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is another viral infection that a mother may have acquired. More than half of all adults have been infected with CMV at some point in their life and, in most cases; it does not cause severe illness. However, it may pass to a baby during the birth process and can also infect newborns through breast milk. Infected infants may have severe problems, such as hearing loss, vision problems, mental retardation, pneumonia, and seizures.
• Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common viral infection. The two most common infections with HSV are “cold sores” affecting the lips and genital herpes. Both of these infections can recur. HSV is most commonly acquired through oral or genital contact. Newborns that contract the virus usually do so during travel through the birth canal of a woman who has a genital infection with HSV. The virus may spread throughout the newborn’s body, attacking vital organs. Treatment with specific antiviral medication should begin as soon as possible in the infected newborn. Even if treated, surviving babies may have permanent damage to their central nervous system.
Normally antibodies produced by the immune system when exposed to the infectious diseases are being tested in this panel. But presence of antibodies does not confirm the current infection, so more specific tests like TORCH DNA test are needed to confirm the infection.
TORCH DNA test look for the presence of DNA of microorganisms in TORCH group in clinical samples. Positive result for Torch DNA indicates the current active infection which cannot be confirmed using antibody test.