Congenital infection caused by human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common occurrence, but its significance is underappreciated. In the developed world, congenital CMV infection confers a tremendous medical and economic burden on society. In recent years, appreciation of the scope of disability produced by such infections in newborns, which includes neurodevelopmental sequelae and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), has increased. Although much of the injury produced by infection in utero likely is irreversible, antiviral therapy of newborns with CMV infection is an option available to clinicians. Currently three antivirals are licensed for treatment of CMV: ganciclovir (and its prodrug, valganciclovir), foscarnet, and cidofovir. Novel antiviral therapies, which employ mechanisms of action that differ from these agents, also are in development. Experience with these agents in the setting of congenital and perinatal CMV infection is limited, but encouraging data come from a controlled clinical trial indicating that ganciclovir therapy may be of value in limiting the neurodevelopmental injury, particularly SNHL, caused by congenital infection. Newborn screening programs for CMV infection need to be developed and implemented. Infants with congenital CMV infection, once identified, could then be considered as candidates for antiviral therapy, and careful neurodevelopmental and hearing screening follow-up care plans could be established. CMV vaccines, once available, may ultimately be the best control strategy for this important public health problem.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by grants NIH-AI-65289 and AI-25459 and National Vaccine Program Office Inter-Agency Vaccine Group Research Grant N10.