• DNA hybridization;
  • electron microscopy;
  • intrauterine infection;
  • hydrops fetalis


Human parvovirus B19 commonly infects children, causing erythema infectiosum (fifth disease). However, there is a significant adult population which has not been exposed to the virus and, consequently, does not have protective antibody. Recent reports have associated B19 infection during pregnancy with fetal death, although normal outcome of pregnancy is more common. To characterise further the role of B19 infection in fetal deaths, a series of laboratory investigations has been undertaken on tissues obtained at autopsy. These have demonstrated the presence of virion-sized DNA by Southern blotting, viral antigen by radioimmunoassay, and viral particles by electron microscopy, all from tissues of hydrops fetalis. These data confirm that the human parvovirus B19 can cross the placenta and replicate in fetal tissues.