Researchers say a vaccine is on the way that will help prevent a virus blamed as one of the leading causes of birth defects.
The CDC tells us that anywhere between 50 to 80 percent of adults have been infected with a virus called Cyto-Megalovirus or CMV. It usually just causes mild flu-like symptoms and the virus, itself, is really no big deal unless a woman gets it during pregnancy. That's when CMV can be devastating.
"CMV is the second most common cause of mental retardation in children after down's syndrome and is the most common infection that cause deafness in babies. The goal of this vaccine is to try to confer immunity to a woman before delivery and then prevent transmission of CMV to the developing baby," said Dr. Mark Schleiss, University of Minnesota.
It looks promising in the lab but testing on humans is still a few years away. So , for now Dr. Schleiss says awareness is our best strategy. People who are in close contact with young children are most at risk since the virus is spread through saliva and other body fluids. So, if you are a woman who is trying to get pregnant and you work around children Dr. Schleiss suggests you talk to your doctor about CMV testing to see if you have already been exposed and don't know it.
If you'd like to know more about CMV. Every year, one percent of the babies born in the US, about 40,000 are born with CMV about 10 to 15 percent of newborns with congenital CMV end up with a long-term disability like mental retardation, cerebral palsy and deafness. CMV also can damage the placenta, leading to miscarriage.
Cytomegalovirus is found widely around the world and is a type of herpes virus. According to the NIH, CMV infects between 50 to 80 percent of all US adults by age 40. There is no cure for it, although commonly it causes few if any symptoms.
CMV can be passed from person to person through contact with infected body fluids, such as saliva, urine, blood and mucus. It also can be transmitted sexually or from infected blood products infected adults occasionally develop a mononucleosis-like illness, which can include symptoms such as sore throat, fever, body aches and fatigue.
At present there is no effective treatment for congenital CMV. However, researchers are investigating whether an antiviral drug called Ganciclovir may help babies with congenital CMV. Ganciclovir is used to treat adults with AIDS or other immune-system problems who have CMV-related eye infections.
A woman who contracts CMV for the first time during pregnancy has about a 40 percent risk of passing the virus on to her fetus. A woman can pass CMV on to her baby at any stage of pregnancy. However, studies suggest that babies are more likely to develop serious complications when their mother is infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The study is published in the Journal of Infectious Disease.