Detection of parvovirus B19 infection in first and second trimester fetal loss

Pediatr Pathol Lab Med. Jan-Feb 1998;18(1):23-34.


Fetal and placental tissues and maternal sera from a series of 273 cases of first and second trimester fetal loss were collected to detect the frequency of parvovirus B19 infection. In addition, fetal tissues were studied for the presence of congenital anomalies. Serology of maternal sera, histology of fetal tissues and placenta, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in situ hybridization (ISH), and immunohistochemistry (IHC) were used for the detection of parvovirus B19 infection. Sera were tested for B19-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) and/or IgG using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay technique. Based on serology, 149 cases not related to B19 infection were excluded from further analysis. Two of the remaining 124 cases (0.7% of all 273 cases) had parvovirus B19-specific IgM and IgG at the time of abortion, indicating a recent maternal parvovirus B19 infection. In our histological examination, 10 cases contained nuclear vacuolization in fetal erythroid progenitor cells, either in fetal tissues (n = 2) or in placental tissue (n = 8). However, this vacuolization was considered a fixation artifact and not identical to parvovirus B19-specific nuclear inclusions described in previous reports. Only 1 of these 10 cases had parvovirus B19 DNA detectable in placental tissue by PCR analysis. Neither in this case nor in any of the other cases tested was parvovirus B19 DNA or protein detectable by ISH or IHC, respectively. In none of 41 cases in which fetal tissues were available were congenital anomalies found. In conclusion, the frequency of maternal parvovirus B19 infection in this series of fetal losses is low (0.8%). This low frequency does not allow any conclusions with regard to the occurrence of congenital anomalies resulting from parvovirus B19 infection and the usage of nuclear histology for the detection of fetal parvovirus B19 infection is considered a nonspecific parameter that requires confirmation by PCR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Base Sequence
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / virology
  • DNA Probes / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology*
  • Fetal Death / pathology
  • Fetal Death / virology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Parvoviridae Infections / complications*
  • Parvoviridae Infections / diagnosis
  • Parvoviridae Infections / immunology
  • Parvovirus B19, Human / immunology
  • Parvovirus B19, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Parvovirus B19, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / immunology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / virology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA Probes
  • DNA, Viral