Tuberculosis in the newborn: an emerging disease

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1997 Dec;16(12):1108-12. doi: 10.1097/00006454-199712000-00003.


Background: In spite of the global increase in tuberculosis, which is in part fueled by the HIV pandemic, tuberculosis in the perinatal period is rare, and to date it has not been directly associated with maternal or neonatal HIV infection.

Objectives: To detect tuberculosis in newborns from a province with epidemics of both tuberculosis and HIV infection and to analyze the profile of tuberculosis in their mothers.

Methods: At King Edward VIII Hospital, in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, during a 1-year period all neonates at the neonatal unit in whom a differential diagnosis of tuberculosis was considered were investigated. The clinical profiles, short term outcome and relationship to maternal tuberculosis and HIV infection were determined for those neonates in whom the diagnosis of tuberculosis was confirmed.

Results: From the investigation of 77 neonates 11 with culture confirmed perinatal tuberculosis were identified. Six of these infants were born to mothers who had HIV and tuberculosis coinfection. Six of the 11 neonates could be classified as congenital tuberculosis. The predominant clinical findings were progressive pneumonia (9 of 11), pyrexia (9 of 11), growth retardation (7 of 11), hepatomegaly (6 of 11), splenomegaly (4 of 11) and meningitis (2 of 11). Seven of their mothers had evidence of current or past tuberculosis or had close contact with a tuberculosis case. One neonate and two mothers died within the first 3 months.

Conclusions: This is the first report of perinatal tuberculosis in association with maternal HIV and tuberculosis coinfection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious*
  • Tuberculosis / transmission*