For decades the ToRCHeS mnemonic (Toxoplasma, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus, HIV, Herpes, Syphilis) was the saving grace of every medical, nursing, biology, virology, pharmacology, zoology and frenology student that is forced to memorize which viruses can cross the placental barrier and be transmitted from mother to fetus. Like a male lion lording over his pride, this memory tool stood untested and unchallenged since the ‘80s.
Now there is a new upstart virus on the scene and it has thrown ToRCHeS for a bit of a tailspin. The Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is now ravaging its way through Latin America and the Caribbean and threatens to spread to the U.S.
Beyond the devastating association with microcephaly is the difficult fact that this new virus puts the ToRCHeS mnemonic in a tricky position and threatens its very existence as a memory tool. The “Z” in the Zika virus does not easily lend itself to the existent memory tool.
At the most recent meeting of the International Virus Association, things got pretty heated when the French camp was pushing hard to change the mnemonic to “Ze ToRCHeS” while the Polish Virology contingent was leaning more toward “ToRCHeSZ” which, some might argue, isn’t exactly straightforward in terms of a memory tool.
Nevertheless, all parties fully agreed that the new mnemonic should be straightened out before focus could be turned toward finding a treatment and/or vaccination.