JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW
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Congenital Infections of the Nervous System.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This article provides an overview of congenital infections affecting the central nervous system (CNS), discussing the epidemiology, clinical features, diagnostic tools, and preventive and treatment measures for a variety of pathogens with the potential to infect the developing fetal brain.

RECENT FINDINGS: Contrary to popular belief, many congenital CNS infections are preventable and treatable. Treatment options exist for congenital cytomegalovirus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes simplex virus, toxoplasmosis, and syphilis, although the efficacy of these treatments and the populations that may benefit from treatment are variable. Zika virus has recently emerged as a pathogen affecting the fetal brain, and new data suggest that the pathogenesis of Zika virus involves direct infection of neuronal progenitor cells leading to destruction of CNS tissue. The incidence of congenital syphilis has been increasing in the United States over the past decade as a direct result of new syphilis cases among adults and poor access to adequate maternal health care.

SUMMARY: Congenital CNS infections often result in significant neurologic morbidity in pediatric patients. Therefore, early identification of maternal illness and implementation of preventive measures are important in improving developmental outcomes and quality of life.

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