Infections in pregnancy: Highlights from the collaborative perinatal project


  • John L. Sever

    1. Infectious Diseases Branch, National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20205
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The longitudinal study of approximately 60,000 pregnant women was conducted at 14 major medical centers throughout the United States. Clinical data was obtained under prescribed protocols for each of the study women throughout their pregnancy, at delivery, and through the postpartum period. The children were followed with uniform examinations from birth through seven years of age. In addition blood samples were taken from the pregnant women at registration, every two months through pregnancy, at delivery, and six weeks postpartum. Cord blood samples were also taken from the children during the last half of the study. We have used this material from the Collaborative Perinatal Project for the investigation of the role of infections in the production of damage to the fetus and newborn.

The frequency of clinically recognizing infections during pregnancy was determined and geographic variation was demonstrated. Serological tests were used to document certain diseases. The frequency of confirmed clinical cases per 10,000 were: rubella, 8; rubeola, 0.6; mumps, 10; varicella-zoster, 5. The epidemiology and clinical findings associated with infections were studied using serological methods. This has provided data on the frequencies of infections such as cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, mumps, rubeola, respiratory syncytial virus, and others. The study of abnormal pregnancies and matched controls is in progress using serological techniques. A number of specific studies have been reported on infections including rubella, neonatal meningitis, cytomegalovirus, maternal urinary tract infections, and toxoplasmosis. Further testing is now in progress employing more sophisticated laboratory methods and more complete data analysis.