A Report of Three Cases and Review of Intrauterine Herpes Simplex Virus Infection

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Intrauterine herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection often is omitted from descriptions of neonatal HSV disease. Previous characterizations of intrauterine HSV infection limit manifestations to the triad of cutaneous, central nervous system (CNS), and ophthalmologic findings. We report 3 cases of intrauterine HSV infection and provide a contemporary literature review of this disease.


Cases published between 1963 and January 2009 were identified. Selected cases fit the clinical description of intrauterine HSV infection, had manifestations present at birth, and had virologic confirmation of infection.


This review yielded 64 cases, 3 of which were our own, of intrauterine HSV infection. Less than one-third fit the typical triad. Of the patients with cutaneous findings at birth, 24 (44%) had manifestations other than vesicles or bullae. Confirmation of HSV infection by culture of cutaneous lesions present at birth was delayed beyond 72 hours after birth in 15 patients and occurred at a median of 10 days of age. Nine of these patients had lesions at birth that were neither vesicles nor bullae, and 14 cases were confirmed by culture of new vesicles.


More than two-thirds of reported cases do not present with the typical triad. Cutaneous findings are not limited to vesicles or bullae. A high index of suspicion and recognition of varied cutaneous manifestations is necessary to diagnose infants with intrauterine HSV infection.

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