Vertically Transmitted Infection

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A diagram of an HIV virion; a virus which can spread via vertical transmission.
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Please note that this article focuses on vertically transmitted infections solely in humans.

A vertically transmitted infection is a type of infection which goes through the process of vertical transmission (also called transplacental transmission and perinatal transmission) whereby a pathogen is spread from a parent to its baby, embryo or fetus before or after birth.[1] It can occur when the parent in question became infected by a pathogen or suffers from a pre-existing condition. This means that vertical transmission can occur in utero, peripartum, and postnatal. Viruses, bacteria, and other organisms are all able to spread through vertical transmission.


As stated previously, the main routes of vertical transmission may be across the placenta (hence why vertical transmission may also occasionally be called transplacental transmission) or in the birth canal (the cervix, vagina, and vulva), but it can also occur due to amniocentesis, chestfeeding (since a pathogen, such as HIV, can spread through chest milk)[2] or major trauma.[3]

Vertically transmitted infections[edit]

There is a wide range of vertically transmitted infections in existence, which include but are not limited to:

The acronym ‘TORCH’ refers to Toxoplasma gondii, other (any unmentioned pathogen capable of being vertically transmitted), rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus. It includes bacteria, viruses and parasites — however it isn't perfect, as a wide variety of pathogens would be listed as "other."[24]

Ways to allay the chance of vertical transmission[edit]

It goes without saying that pregnant people ought to be vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rubella, varicella[note 1] and HPV prior to getting pregnant. In earnest, if you have the privilege to easily access vaccines, yet you assiduously refuse to be inoculated, you shouldn't be a parent. Prenatal care is also paramount in order to protect the pregnancy; you are able to start receiving it as soon as you know you're pregnant.[25] Make sure you're tested for various antibodies against vertically transmitted infections; they can indicate that you've come into contact with a vertically transmitted infection during gestation.

For example, to prevent vertical transmission of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), prenatal testing, prenatal antiretroviral therapy/antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, cesarean delivery (also known as a C-section), avoidance of chestfeeding, and other preventative measures are all advised.[26]


  1. Note that varicella causes both chickenpox and shingles/herpes zoster, therefore, you need to get both the chickenpox and shingles vaccines.


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