Premature newborns with fatal intrauterine herpes simplex virus-1 infection: first report of twins and review of the literature


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Neonates with blistering skin diseases are dermatologic emergencies. The pathologies involved can pose diagnostic difficulties and there exists a variety of potential life-threatening differential diagnoses.


description of the first case of intrauterine acquired herpes simplex virus (HSV) 1 infection in twins.


We present the case of two premature bicordial biamniotic twins (27th week of gestation) whose intrauterine growth retardation, fetal anaemia and cardiotocography abnormalities led to a caesarean emergency delivery.


Accurate medical history revealed a maternal febrile gingivostomatitis at the 23rd week of gestation, which was neglected by the treating gynaecologist. Respiratory distress was present at delivery and intubation was necessary in both children. The whole skin showed extensive erosions and ulcerations and the mucosa of the eyes and genitals was also involved. Intrauterine Herpes simplex virus (HSV) 1 infection was confirmed by immunohistochemistry of skin Tzanck smear (HSV 1 positive, HSV 2 negative), real-time polymerase chain reaction of both serum and skin (HSV 1 positive; HSV 2 negative) and maternal serology positive for HSV 1 IgM and IgG. Siblings were immediately treated with high-dose endovenous acyclovir. Anaemia thrombocytopenia and hepatorenal values markedly deteriorated and both developed consequential hepatorenal failure. The third day live supportive measures were terminated after parental informed consent and both siblings deceased shortly after on their mother's breast.


Intrauterine HSV infection is rare and accounts only for 5% of neonatal HSV infections. Literature reports only 64 cases and 90% of those are related to HSV-2. Transplacental viral transmission is highest during the first 20 weeks of gestation and has been observed in pregnant women with disseminated HSV infection. Mortality and morbidity of intrauterine herpetic infection are extremely high.


Despite transplacental HSV transmission remains a rare event, the potential devastating outcome justifies immediate adequate antiviral treatment in a pregnant woman affected by primary HSV infection.