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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Congenital parasitic infections: a review

Yves Carlier, Carine Truyens, Philippe Deloron, Fran├žois Peyron
Acta Tropica 2012, 121 (2): 55-70
22085916
This review defines the concepts of maternal-fetal (congenital) and vertical transmissions (mother-to-child) of pathogens and specifies the human parasites susceptible to be congenitally transferred. It highlights the epidemiological features of this transmission mode for the three main congenital parasitic infections due to Toxoplasma gondii, Trypanosoma cruzi and Plasmodium sp. Information on the possible maternal-fetal routes of transmission, the placental responses to infection and timing of parasite transmission are synthesized and compared. The factors susceptible to be involved in parasite transmission and development of congenital parasitic diseases, such as the parasite genotypes, the maternal co-infections and parasitic load, the immunological features of pregnant women and the capacity of some fetuses/neonates to overcome their immunological immaturity to mount an immune response against the transmitted parasites are also discussed and compared. Analysis of clinical data indicates that parasitic congenital infections are often asymptomatic, whereas symptomatic newborns generally display non-specific symptoms. The long-term consequences of congenital infections are also mentioned, such as the imprinting of neonatal immune system and the possible trans-generational transmission. The detection of infection in pregnant women is mainly based on standard serological or parasitological investigations. Amniocentesis and cordocentesis can be used for the detection of some fetal infections. The neonatal infection can be assessed using parasitological, molecular or immunological methods; the place of PCR in such neonatal diagnosis is discussed. When such laboratory diagnosis is not possible at birth or in the first weeks of life, standard serological investigations can also be performed 8-10 months after birth, to avoid detection of maternal transmitted antibodies. The specific aspects of treatment of T. gondii, T. cruzi and Plasmodium congenital infections are mentioned. The possibilities of primary and secondary prophylaxes, as well as the available WHO corresponding recommendations are also presented.

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