Heterogeneous cutaneous findings associated with intrauterine HSV infection: A case series and literature review

Deeti J. Pithadia, Michelle L. Kerns, William C. Golden, Yevgeniy Balagula, Sharon A. Glick, Amy Huang, Nicola E. Natsis, Wynnis L. Tom, Bernard A. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Objective: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection acquired in utero may present with non-vesicular dermatologic findings in affected newborns, which may pose a diagnostic dilemma. We aimed to describe and assess the range of non-vesiculobullous skin lesions that neonates with intrauterine HSV infection may manifest at birth. Methods: We collected a multicenter case series and conducted a literature review of neonates with intrauterine HSV infection presenting with non-vesiculobullous cutaneous lesions. Results: Twenty-two cases were reviewed, including six managed clinically by members of our team and 16 identified in the literature. Four (18%) were associated with twin pregnancies, and thirteen (59%) cases occurred in premature infants. Only four (18%) mothers had a documented history of HSV infection. Twelve (55%) cases resulted in poor outcomes, including long-term neurologic sequelae or death. Cutaneous manifestations included erosions, ulcerations, crusted papules or plaques, calcinosis cutis, excoriations, macules (erythematous, hypopigmented, or hyperpigmented), cutaneous atrophy, contractures, and bruising. About one-third of neonates developed new-onset vesicular lesions within a week of birth; in each of these cases, accurate diagnosis and therapy were delayed until appearance of vesicles. Conclusions: The range of dermatologic findings associated with intrauterine HSV is extremely broad, and the various morphologies present at birth likely reflect different stages of the ongoing evolution of an HSV infection that began in utero. Clinicians should have a low threshold for HSV testing in premature neonates born with atypical cutaneous lesions, since early detection and treatment of HSV may reduce morbidity and mortality from systemic complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)831-841
Number of pages11
JournalPediatric Dermatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • infection—viral
  • neonatal
  • skin signs of systemic disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Dermatology


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