Babies with congenital CMV — a common, sometimes deadly virus — may avoid pregnancy complications

Further research is needed into whether a prior infection with the so-called CMV virus, also known as congenital cytomegalovirus, can protect against CMV infection in adults, according to a new study. “Further research is…

Babies with congenital CMV — a common, sometimes deadly virus — may avoid pregnancy complications

Further research is needed into whether a prior infection with the so-called CMV virus, also known as congenital cytomegalovirus, can protect against CMV infection in adults, according to a new study.

“Further research is needed to determine the minimum threshold level of exposure to CMV that is necessary for protection against CMV infection,” said lead study author Oren Atti, M.D., an infectious disease expert at Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston.

CMV is a common virus found in the saliva, urine and tissues of infants. “During the first several years of life, CMV usually causes mild illness, but as the virus persists in the adult body, it can cause illness later in life with symptoms including fever, headache, joint pain, arthritis and rashes,” Atti said.

Between the years 1989 and 1995, Texas Children’s Hospital researchers found that a group of newborn infants with congenital CMV had slightly lower rates of C. difficile infection in subsequent pregnancies compared to newborns without the virus.

In an effort to find out if these babies were protected from C. difficile infections in subsequent pregnancies, the researchers retrospectively evaluated data on 200 newborns with CMV and 127 unaffected infants. The CMV-infected infants received general infectious disease care and were monitored throughout their first 21 years of life. The C. difficile-unaffected infants received general infectious disease care but were not monitored for the incidence of CMV.

CMV is transmitted by several methods. In general, the virus is spread through sexual contact and contact with bodily fluids from infected individuals. CMV transmission can also occur when someone with CMV presents at an infectious disease clinic and the clinic physician misses a clinical sign of CMV infection, Atti said.

A previous study published in October in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the longer a parent or sibling had been exposed to CMV in childhood, the lower the chance of transmitting CMV to future children. However, this study was based on C. difficile diagnoses, not CMV infections themselves.

The new study was based on an analysis of the sexual history of the CMV-infected babies, which includes partner or parent status as well as sexual preference, Atti said. Previous research by the study authors suggests that female CMV carriers are more likely to transmit CMV to future generations. “I am cautiously optimistic that the high prevalence of a previous CMV infection in the CMV-infected group compared to the unexposed group is related to protection from CMV infection,” Atti said.

However, “It is still premature to declare CMV the ‘cure’ for C. difficile,” he added.

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