Infections are the leading cause of perinatal and infant mortality in low-income and low-resource countries, which have a higher prevalence of infections. Definitive diagnosis of congenital and perinatal infections is largely dependent upon the results of laboratory tests.
To develop a multiplex nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique for the simultaneous detection of 7 pathogens containing DNA in their genomes in suspected cases of congenital infection.
Eligible participants were pregnant women with positive immunoglobulin M antibodies raised to one of the pathogens in the prenatal serologic screening, associated or not with fetal ultrasound abnormalities or positive fetal serology. Neonates whose mothers did not attend prenatal care were included when they presented with symptomatology and laboratory parameters suggestive of infection. The detection rate of the multiplex nested PCR was compared with maternal, fetal, and neonatal serology, as well as placental immunohistochemistry and noncommercial amplifications.
Of 161 suspected cases, the multiplex nested PCR detected 60 (37.3%), whereas the tests available in hospital laboratories detected 13 of 60 (21.7%) of the cases detected by the multiplex nested PCR, demonstrating a 4.6 times higher detection rate for the multiplex nested PCR (Fisher exact test, < .001). Positive amplifications were to (32 cases), cytomegalovirus (14 cases), parvovirus B19 (5 cases), and adenovirus (5 cases). In 4 cases, 2 pathogens were simultaneously detected. All types of biological matrices were suitable for amplification. Sequencing of multiplex nested PCR products confirmed the molecular findings.
The multiplex nested PCR significantly increased the number of diagnosed congenital infections. Given the scarcity of DNA recovered from amniotic fluid and some neonatal samples, this multiplex nested PCR allows the simultaneous detection of 7 pathogens associated with congenital infections in a reliable, faster, cost-effective, and more sensitive way.