Herpesvirus Infection in Infants with Gastroschisis

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Background:Gastroschisis is a congenital malformation that has been shown to be more common in younger mothers and appears to be increasing in prevalence in the United States and elsewhere. Epidemiologic data suggest a potential role of infection and recent studies report an association between maternal antibodies to human herpesviruses (HHV) and development of gastroschisis.Methods:In this study, we examined newborn bloodspots from 50 children with gastroschisis and 50 healthy controls using a highly sensitive digital droplet polymerase chain reaction assay covering eight human herpesviruses [herpes simplex sirus 1/2, Epstein-Barr virus (HHV-4), cytomegalovirus (HHV-5), HHV-6A/B, HHV-7, and HHV-8], to examine the presence of herpesvirus DNA at birth, which would suggest in utero infection.Results:One control tested positive for low-level cytomegalovirus infection. We found no evidence of an association between herpesvirus DNA in neonatal blood spots taken at birth and gastroschisis.Conclusions:Our results do not support direct involvement of herpesviruses in the etiology of gastroschisis. However, there are several limitations in our study, most notably the known induction of this congenital malformation early in pregnancy and our analysis of blood taken at birth. Therefore, we cannot conclude that herpesviruses play no role in the etiology of gastroschisis and further research is needed to better define this relationship.

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