Viral infections in the fetus or newborn often involve the central nervous system (CNS) and can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. Substantial progress has been made in identifying interventions decreasing adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in this population. This review highlights progress in treatment of important viruses affecting the CNS in these susceptible hosts, focusing on herpes simplex virus (HSV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and enteroviruses. The observation that high-dose acyclovir improves mortality in neonatal HSV disease culminated decades of antiviral research for this disease. More recently, prolonged oral acyclovir was found to improve neurologic morbidity after neonatal HSV encephalitis. Ganciclovir, and more recently its oral prodrug valganciclovir, is effective in improving hearing and neurodevelopment after congenital CMV infection. Increasing evidence suggests early control of perinatal HIV infection has implications for neurocognitive functioning into school age. Lastly, the antiviral pleconaril has been studied for nearly two decades for treating severe enteroviral infections, with newer data supporting a role for this drug in neonates. Identifying common mechanisms for pathogenesis of viral CNS disease during this critical period of brain development is an important research goal, highlighted by the recent emergence of Zika virus as a potential cause of fetal neurodevelopmental abnormalities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health