Child bearing over the centuries has been fraught with risk for both mother and child. Maternal mortality hovered over 40 deaths per thousand births until the mid-1930s, and child mortality before age 5 exceeded 100 per thousand until it began a precipitous drop in developed nations in the same time frame. Public health scientists in the modern age of microbiology have contributed to improvements for both mother and child as they have developed the knowledge and expertise to isolate and identify agents that cause infections In Utero (in the womb). Vaccines, early diagnosis, and preventative medicine have brought an effective end to many fetal and neonatal diseases that in the past caused deformity, brain damage, and premature death.
Before the advent of widely-available, safe vaccines, the developmental damage and death rates from infections by microorganisms were a high risk to the unborn child. When a mother showed signs of infection by German measles, caused by the rubella virus, she faced the difficult choice of aborting the fetus or giving birth to a child with profound birth defects and a high risk of death. The financial burden of raising a child with mental or physical deformities was difficult for most families to bear, and medical and institutional supports were either unavailable, or too expensive for most to access. The development of the highly-effective rubella vaccine enabled physicians to protect both the mother and her unborn child from infection, which changed the lives of millions of people and spared the ravages of the damaging effects of the virus.
Similarly, three additional infectious agents have been recognized for their particular and formerly-prevalent damaging effects on fetal and neonatal health. These are toxoplasma, cytomegalovirus, and herpesvirus. Unlike rubella, effective vaccines against these organisms are either not yet available, or are not in widespread use. For this reason, it has become a foundation of public health practice to assess the immune and infection status of women in pregnancy with a view to assessing the presence and/or risk of exposure to these disease organisms. Today, all women of child-bearing age are tested for the status of their immunity to toxoplasma, rubella, cytomegalovirus and herpesvirus, a diagnostic procedure widely referred to as the ToRCH panel test.
Confirming prior exposure (and therefore reduced risk of reinfection) ensures a high probability that a pregnancy will avoid complications associated with these infections. Women without prior exposure, or with active infections, can be monitored and treated appropriately to avoid complications.
ToRCH diagnostic testing represents a significant volume of diagnostic testing annually in North America, Europe and other regions of the globe with modern healthcare systems.
Microbix is a proud provider of gold-standard toxoplasma, rubella, cytomegalovirus and herpesvirus reagents that form the basis of ToRCH tests made by prominent diagnostics manufacturers around the world. Microbix has recently launched a new product line expanding its offerings in this area. Microbix’ new products are increasingly being used in advanced, automated diagnostic systems, especially in Asia as world-class healthcare systems are increasingly accessible to women and families. Microbix’ ToRCH antigens will continue to support better health outcomes for people around the globe.