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CMV Vaccine for Newborns

MINNEAPOLIS- -Most adults have had the virus known as CMV, or cytomegalovirus, and they probably didn't even know it. But if an unborn baby is infected with the virus -- through his or her mother -- the consequences are very serious.

CMV is the second leading cause of mental retardation, after Down syndrome. There is currently no vaccine for CMV, but there are anti-virus meds that can be used in babies who already have a CMV infection. The virus is spread through close personal contact, such as kissing or sharing eating utensils. Pregnant women may not know they have the infection.

Delilah Page can keep up with her older brother and sister just fine. But her mom didn't know what to expect when Delilah was born deaf two years ago.

"Here we have this beautiful, beautiful little infant, and we don't know what's going to happen," Delilah's mother, Rachel Page, says.

When Rachel was pregnant, she contracted CMV. She passed the virus onto Delilah.

"It happened when she was inside my body, so then I blamed myself," Rachel says.

Mark R. Schleiss, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and CMV Specialist at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, Minn., says about 40,000 babies are born in the United States each year with CMV.

"There's no question about the public health significance of this. It might truly be characterized as a national epidemic," Dr. Schleiss says.

Almost all babies born with CMV suffer hearing loss or mental retardation. After 15 years of research, Dr. Schleiss and his colleagues have developed a vaccine they hope will wipe out the virus.

"Vaccines are, without question, the single most cost-effect and life-saving intervention that has ever been described in medicine," Dr. Schleiss says.

In animals, the vaccine stopped the virus from being transmitted from mother to child by training the body's immune system to detect and attack it. Researchers hope it will do the same in humans.

Delilah is getting along okay with the help of her cochlear implant and some sign language. A vaccine wouldn't help her, but it may help others like her in the future.

Categories: Babies, Children's Health, Health & Wellness,

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