What is the predominant pathogen in neonatal herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE)?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Wayne E Anderson, DO, FAHS, FAAN; Chief Editor: Niranjan N Singh, MBBS, MD, DM, FAHS, FAANEM  more...
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The predominant pathogen is HSV-2 (75% of cases), which is usually acquired by maternal shedding (frequently asymptomatic) during delivery. A preexisting but recurrent maternal genital herpes infection results in 8% risk of symptomatic infection, usually transmitted at the second stage of labor via direct contact. Should the mother acquire genital herpes during pregnancy, the risk increases to 40%.

The absence of a maternal history of prior genital herpes does not exclude risk; in 80% of cases of neonatal HSE, no maternal history of prior HSV infection is present. Prolonged rupture of the membranes (>6 h) and intrauterine monitoring (eg, attachment of scalp electrodes) are risk factors.

In about 10% of cases, HSV (often type 1) is acquired post partum by contact with an individual who is shedding HSV from a fever blister, finger infection, or other cutaneous lesion. [22, 23]

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