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Congenital CMV Infection

Español: Infección congénita por CMV

Most (90 of every 100) infants who are infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV) at birth (congenital CMV infection) appear healthy at birth. Health problems or disabilities due to congenital CMV infection may appear 2 or more years after birth, or they may never appear—80 of every 100 infants with congenital CMV infection never develop symptoms or disabilities.

Signs and Symptoms

Mother holding infant

Signs of CMV infection that may be present at birth

  • Premature birth
  • Liver problems
  • Lung problems
  • Spleen problems
  • Small size at birth
  • Small head size
  • Seizures

Permanent health problems or disabilities due to congenital CMV infection

  • Hearing loss
  • Vision loss
  • Mental disability
  • Small head size
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Death (in rare cases)

Children with congenital CMV infection are more likely to have permanent disabilities if they had symptoms of CMV infection at birth. However, some children with congenital CMV infection who appear healthy at birth can develop hearing or vision loss over time due to congenital CMV infection. For this reason, if you know your baby was born with CMV infection, it is important to have his or her hearing and vision tested regularly.

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Treatment for Babies Born with CMV

If your baby is diagnosed with congenital CMV infection, you should have his or her hearing and vision checked regularly. About 80% of babies with congenital CMV infection grow up healthy, but if your child starts to have hearing or vision problems, early detection can help his or her development. If your baby is infected and has symptoms of congenital CMV infection, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of antiviral drug treatments.

There is some evidence that ganciclovir, an antiviral drug, may prevent hearing loss and developmental outcomes in infants born with symptomatic congenital CMV infection with central nervous system involvement. However, this drug has serious side effects and has only been tested in children with severe symptoms from congenital CMV infection. If your child has symptoms of congenital CMV infection, you should consult with your doctor to decide whether to try treatment.

Also see References & Resources


  • Effect of ganciclovir therapy on hearing in symptomatic congenital cytomegalovirus disease involving the central nervous system: a randomized, controlled trial. J Pediatr. 2003 Jul;143(1):16-25. [Read the Medline Abstract of this paper]
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