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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Assessment of laboratory methods used in the diagnosis of congenital toxoplasmosis after maternal treatment with spiramycin in pregnancy

Isolina MX Rodrigues1, Tatiane L Costa2, Juliana B Avelar1, Waldemar N Amaral3, Ana M Castro1 and Mariza M Avelino4*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory studies of the host-parasite relationship (LAERPH) of Institute for Tropical Pathology and Public Health (IPTSP) of the Federal University of Goiás (UFG), Goiânia, Brazil

2 Clinical Laboratory of the University Hospital of the Federal University of Goiás (UFG), Goiânia, Brazil

3 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics of the Faculty of Medicine - FM/UFG, Goiânia, Brazil

4 Department of Pediatrics and Puericulture in the Medical School (MS) of Federal University of Goiás (UFG), Av. s/n Setor Leste Universitário, Goiânia-GO CEP: 74001-970, Brazil

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:349  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-349

Published: 24 June 2014

Abstract

Background

The different laboratory methods used in the diagnosis of congenital toxoplasmosis have variable sensitivity and specificity. There is no evidence to prove that maternal treatment reduces the risk of fetal infection. The purpose of this study was to assess methods for the confirmation of congenital toxoplasmosis after maternal treatment with spiramycin during pregnancy, and to evaluate the effect of this treatment on clinical manifestations of the disease in newborns (NB).

Methods

This was a community-based, cross-sectional study of acute toxoplasmosis in newborns at risk of acquiring congenital infection. Participating newborns were born in the Clinical Hospital Maternity Ward of the Federal University of Goiás. Eligible participants were divided into 2 groups: group 1 consisted of 44 newborns born to mothers treated with spiramycin during pregnancy and group 2 consisted of 24 newborns born to mothers not treated with spiramycin during pregnancy because the diagnosis of toxoplasmosis was not performed. The sensitivity and specifity of PCR for T. gondii DNA in peripheral blood and serological testing for specific anti-T. gondii IgM and IgA, and the effects of maternal spiramycin treatment on these parameters, were determined by associating test results with clinical manifestations of disease.

Results

The sensitivity of the markers (T. gondii DNA detected by PCR, and the presence of specific anti-T. gondii IgM and IgA) for congenital toxoplasmosis was higher in group 2 than in group 1 (31.6, 68.4, 36.8% and 3.7, 25.9, 11.1% respectively). Even with a low PCR sensitivity, the group 2 results indicate the importance of developing new techniques for the diagnosis of congenital toxoplasmosis in newborns. Within group 1, 70.4% of the infected newborns were asymptomatic and, in group 2, 68.4% showed clinical manifestations of congenital toxoplasmosis.

Conclusions

The higher proportion of infants without clinical symptoms in group 1 (70.4%) suggests the maternal treatment with spiramycin delays fetal infection, reducing the clinical sequelae of the disease in newborns. Given the low sensitivity of the tests used, when there is suspicion of congenital transmission several serological and parasitological tests are required in order to confirm or exclude congenital toxoplasmosis in newborns.

Keywords:
Congenital toxoplasmosis; Treatment; Serology; PCR; Symptoms