Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a member of the herpes family of viruses. It is the most common congenital infection , affecting 3-4/1,000 live births. In Europe, 50% of women are susceptible to the disease during pregnancy. About 1% of susceptible women will develop the infection during pregnancy and, in half of the cases, the newborn will become infected.
Infection can occur at any time during pregnancy or during the neonatal period (through intimate contact with people who are infected, through breastfeeding if the mother has the disease, or through CMV-contaminated blood transfusion).
Symptoms of cytomegalovirus infection
It is a mild infection or without symptoms (the mother does not realize that she is suffering from it because she does not feel sick). 90 % of infected fetuses have no repercussions at birth and their development is normal. However, 5% of affected babies may eventually develop deafness .
5% present symptoms of infection at birth :
- Cerebral palsy
- Microcephaly (abnormally small head)
- learning difficulties
- Lung involvement (pneumonitis)
- Anemia and low platelets
- Eye involvement
- Spleen and liver enlargement
Treatment and prevention
There is currently no effective treatment for congenital or neonatal cytomegalovirus infection. Screening for cytomegalovirus in the surrogate mother is not routinely performed during pregnancy; this is so because the overall risk of serious disease in the fetus is very low. Nurseries and hospitals are the places where cytomegalovirus infection is most common. Good hand washing is recommended to avoid contagion.