, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 151-156

Herpes simplex virus infections of the newborn

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Opinion statement

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection in newborns is an important cause of death and permanent neurodevelopmental disability among young children. Neonatal HSV infections can be categorized as 1) mucocutaneous (skin-eyes-mouth), 2) disseminated, or 3) encephalitic. In addition, congenital HSV infection, a distinct clinical syndrome, accounts for approximately 5% of HSV infections identified in the neonatal period. Polymerase chain reaction greatly enhances the clinician’s ability to diagnosis HSV infections, but as many as 25% of infants with neonatal HSV encephalitis have negative polymerase chain reaction studies of cerebrospinal fluid. Infants with proven or suspected HSV infections should receive acyclovir 60 mg/kg/day divided every 8 hours for 14 days if disease is restricted to the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes and for 21 days if the infant has disseminated infection or encephalitis. The benefit of long-term suppression therapy after completion of the initial treatment regimen has not been established definitively. Despite therapy with acyclovir, the best available anti-HSV drug, a substantial number of HSV-infected infants with disseminated infections or encephalitis die or have long-term neurodevelopmental sequelae.