BACKGROUND: Congenital viral infections cause substantial long-term morbidity but population-based data about diagnosis rates are scarce. The aim of this study was to assess the long-term trends in congenital viral infections in England and to report on how the rates of these infections might have changed with improved methods for detection, the introduction of the two-dose measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in 1996, and the implementation of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP) in 2006. METHODS: For this population-based, observational cohort study, we used national and regional hospitalisation data from 1968 to 2016 in England (Hospital In-Patient Enquiry, Hospital Episode Statistics, and Oxford Record Linkage Study) to calculate annual rates of hospital discharges coded with-and individuals aged younger than 1 month diagnosed with-congenital cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella zoster virus (VZV), and rubella. We investigated associations of congenital cytomegalovirus, HSV, and VZV with perinatal and maternal factors (sex, mother's ethnicity, mode of delivery, gestational age, birthweight, mother's age, mother's index of multiple deprivation, and number of previous pregnancies). FINDINGS: In 2016, discharge rates per 100 000 infant population were 22·3 (95% CI 18·8-26·1) for congenital cytomegalovirus, 17·6 (14·6-21·1) for HSV, 32·6 (28·4-37·2) for VZV, and 0·15 (0·0-0·8) for rubella. Compared with earlier years of the study, the discharge rate in 2016 was higher for congenital cytomegalovirus, HSV, and VZV, whereas it was lower for rubella. For congenital cytomegalovirus, there was a significant step-increase between 2006 and 2007 following implementation of the NHSP (rate ratio comparing the trend line post-NHSP with that pre-NHSP 1·55 [95% CI 1·12-2·14], p=0·0072). Congenital cytomegalovirus infection was associated with birthweight less than 1 kg, maternal age younger than 25 years, socioeconomically deprived households, casearean section, and mothers of black ethnicity. Congenital HSV infection was associated with maternal age younger than 20 years, gestational age less than 32 weeks, and vaginal and emergency caesarean section deliveries, while VZV infection was associated with increased parity and black and south Asian ethnicities. INTERPRETATION: The increase in hospital discharges coded with congenital cytomegalovirus is most likely due to the introduction of sensitive diagnostic techniques and retrospective diagnoses made in infants after implementation of the NHSP. Public health strategies to improve prevention and treatment of congenital viral infections are urgently warranted. The decrease in discharges for rubella is most likely due to the MMR vaccine. FUNDING: None.
Lancet Infect Dis