Health Encyclopedia

TORCH Panel

Does this test have other names?

TORCH screen

What is this test?

The TORCH panel test is used to help diagnose infections that could harm the fetus during pregnancy. TORCH is an acronym of the five infections covered in the screening:

  • Toxoplasmosis. This infection is caused by a parasite commonly picked up from cat stools. Babies can develop congenital toxoplasmosis, which, if untreated, can cause blindness, deafness, seizures, and intellectual disability.

  • Other, including syphilis. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that a mother can pass on to a fetus during pregnancy. Syphilis can cause a baby to be stillborn, and can also cause premature labor, birth defects, low birth weight, and deafness.

  • Rubella. Rubella, also called German measles, is a viral infection that can easily be passed from person to person through sneezing or coughing. Rubella is less common today because a vaccine protects against it, but pregnant women with rubella can pass the virus to a fetus. Rubella can cause miscarriage or stillbirth, as well as problems with growth of the fetus.

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV is a type of herpesvirus and is the most common congenital infection in babies. Congenital means present at birth. Mothers can get CMV by sexual contact or contact with bodily fluids like saliva from a person who has CMV. CMV can cause long-term problems in infants, including problems with vision, hearing, and mental development.

  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV). Pregnant women can get the genital herpes simplex virus through sexual contact with an infected person and can pass the infection along to the developing fetus during delivery. HSV in babies can cause low birth weight, miscarriage, and preterm birth. It can also cause sores that affect the skin, eyes, and mouth, and brain and organ damage.

These infections can cause serious problems during pregnancy, so it's important to find them early in pregnancy so that they can be treated, if treatment is possible. Women often get the TORCH screening test at their first prenatal visit. If and when a woman has the TORCH screening is the doctor's decision.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if you are pregnant. This test may also be done on newborn babies to diagnose any possible infections.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

You may have other prenatal screening tests done at the same time, including:

  • HIV test

  • Test for Down syndrome

  • Gestational diabetes test  

What do my test results mean?

A result for a lab test may be affected by many things, including the method the laboratory uses to do the test. If your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

The TORCH panel test results indicate whether you have any of these infections. Normal test results will show that you do not have any of the viruses, bacteria, or parasites screened for in the test. Positive test results will show that you have one or more of these viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

How is this test done?

The TORCH panel requires a blood sample. You may have your finger pricked by a needle and a few drops of blood squeezed out for the sample. Or you may need to have a tube or vial of blood filled from a needle put into a vein in your arm. 

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries small risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, and a sense of lightheadedness. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward the site may be sore. You may experience pain or discomfort from the finger prick of the needle.

What might affect my test results?

Nothing is likely to affect the results of this test. Your doctor will tell you if any of your medications may affect the test and if you should avoid them before having the test.

How do I get ready for this test?

You probably don't need to do anything special to prepare for the test. Your doctor will tell you if you need to avoid medications, eating, or drinking the day of the test. Be sure to tell your doctor about any over-the-counter or prescription medications, herbs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking.