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Role of Infectious Agents in Birth Defects

An Overview of Still-Unresolved Problems
  • André J. Nahmias
  • Aarolyn M. Visintine

Abstract

The origins of ill effects in the fetus include monogenic or chromosomal, multifactorial (genetic and environmental combined), or predominantly environmental influences (Scriver, 1976). Although infectious agents, primarily viruses, are among the most important known environmental insults to the fetus, many genetic overtones can be noted, suggesting that these effects may well be multifactorial. Thus the unfolding fields of developmental immunology and immunogenetics indicate that the genetic attributes of the pregnant woman and her conceptus influence fetal outcome as regards possible graft vs. host rejection and effects of transplacentally transmitted infectious agents (Cooper and Dayton, 1977; Götze, 1977). Experimental studies also support the possibility that viruses can produce chromosomal and possibly even genetic alterations (Nichols, 1966), and the seasonal clustering of some aneuploidies (Pai et al., 1978) suggests possible infectious causes. Indeed, if vertically transmitted RNA retroviruses exist in the germ plasm of humans, as they do in other species, such chromosomally integrated viral genetic material might well affect embryogenesis (Temin, 1976). Furthermore, the possibility of treating genetic or chromosomal disorders with DNA recombinants using viruses and/or bacteria is receiving much attention today.

Keywords

Pregnant Woman Infectious Agent Rubella Virus Intrauterine Infection Congenital Toxoplasmosis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Aubrey Milunsky 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • André J. Nahmias
    • 1
  • Aarolyn M. Visintine
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics, Infectious Diseases and Immunology DivisionEmory University School of MedicineAtlantaUSA

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