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During pregnancy, infections can be spread from a woman to her developing fetus. Early identification and treatment of these infections in a newborn child is crucial. Prenatal care encompasses a variety of tests, including a TORCH screen test, also known as simply a TORCH test. The TORCH test is also done on newborns.

The TORCH screen is a test that screens for :

  • toxoplasmosis
  • rubella
  • cytomegalovirus
  • herpes simplex
  • HIV
  • When it also includes testing for syphilis, it is referred to as a TORCHS test.

    While it is typically done on newborns, this test is also ordered if a woman shows symptoms for any of these diseases during pregnancy. These particular diseases can cross the placenta and cause congenital defects. Newborns infected with one of these diseases may be born withcataracts, deafness, mental retardation, heart defects, seizures, jaundice, or low plateletlevels.

    The test itself screens for antibodies to the diseases, and can provide information as to whether an individual has been recently infected, has had a past infection, or has never been exposed to the infection.

    Newer tests for these infections have been developed that are more sensitive and specific than the TORCH test. As a result, the TORCH test is becoming less common. Antibodies can take weeks to develop, and since the test relies on finding antibodies, diagnosis can be delayed.

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