Human parvovirus infection in pregnancy and hydrops fetalis

N Engl J Med. 1987 Jan 22;316(4):183-6. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198701223160403.


Human parvovirus is the causative agent of erythema infectiosum, a mild epidemic illness. In a recent outbreak in northeast Scotland, six women had serologic evidence of having contracted human parvovirus infection during pregnancy. Two of the women had midtrimester abortions, and both abortuses were grossly hydropic with anemia. They had similar microscopical histopathological features--a pronounced leukoerythroblastic reaction, hepatitis, excessive iron pigment in the liver, and eosinophilic changes in the hematopoietic cell nuclei. Dot hybridization with radiolabeled human parvovirus DNA probes revealed viral DNA in several tissues from both fetuses, indicating that they had been infected by the virus in utero. The remaining four women had uncomplicated pregnancies and delivered apparently healthy babies, none of whom had human parvovirus-specific IgM antibody at delivery. We conclude that this common virus may pose a serious risk to the fetus after maternal infection.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Septic / etiology
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Edema / etiology*
  • Edema / pathology
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / etiology*
  • Fetal Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Parvoviridae / immunology
  • Parvoviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Parvoviridae Infections / etiology*
  • Parvoviridae Infections / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / etiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / pathology
  • Scotland


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral