Screening maternal serum alpha‐fetoprotein levels and human parvovirus antibodies

David R. Johnson, Rachel A. Fisher, Jenny J. Helwick, Dennis L. Murray, Maria J. Patterson, Frances P. Downes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The association between gestational infection with human parvovirus (B19) and fetal loss has increased interest in this virus and demand for diagnostic testing. However, serological assays for B19 are not yet widely available. Maternal serum alpha‐fetoprotein (MSAFP) testing is commonly used during the second trimester to screen for various fetal defects. We attempted to determine whether an elevated level of MSAFP would be an appropriate indication for B19‐specific tests. Over a 26‐month period, MSAFP tests were performed at Michigan State University for 21 392 women. Sera remaining after that testing were stored frozen. Of these, 22 case samples—from women with MSAFP levels greater than 3·0 multiples of the median (MOM) and pregnancies that ended in fetal loss—and 44 matched control samples—from women with MSAFP levels greater than 0·4 and less than 2·2 MOM and live births at term—were tested for B19 antibodies. None of the 66 samples was IgM positive, while 33 (50 per cent) were IgG positive. The presence of IgG was not significantly associated with case or control status (matched odds ratio=0·77, 95 per cent confidence interval 0·28–2·11). These findings are consistent with other studies indicating prior infection in approximately half of adults and suggest that elevated screening MSAFP levels, in the absence of other evidence of B19 infection, should not prompt B19‐specific testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-458
Number of pages4
JournalPrenatal Diagnosis
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Human parvovirus B19
  • maternal serum alpha‐fetoprotein
  • prenatal screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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