Neonatal herpes infection: diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Semin Neonatol. 2002 Aug;7(4):283-91. doi: 10.1016/s1084-2756(02)90115-6.


Approximately 2000 neonates contract infection due to herpes simplex virus each year in the United States. Although herpes simplex virus type 2 is responsible for most neonatal infections, approximately 30% of infections are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1. Infections are categorized by extent of disease into skin/eye/mouth, central nervous system and disseminated disease categories. Each disease category is responsible for roughly one third of neonatal infections. Mortality is highest in disseminated disease. Morbidity is highest for survivors of central nervous system infection. Treatment with high dose parenteral acyclovir (60 mg/kg/day) for 14-21 days improves outcome. Since most neonatal infections are acquired from contact with infected maternal genital tract secretions, potential preventative strategies include: Caesarean delivery, serologic screening of pregnant women, prophylactic acyclovir and vaccination. The two strategies currently accepted by most obstetricians are Caesarean delivery for women with active lesions or prodromal symptoms and prophylactic acyclovir for women with gestational herpes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Herpes Simplex* / diagnosis
  • Herpes Simplex* / therapy
  • Herpes Simplex* / transmission
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Acyclovir